It is completely fine if you haven’t put a work process in place to prepare for a pending pandemic. None of us saw this coming. But now that we are facing an actual national crisis with COVID-19, let’s talk about how you can put together a Business Continuity Plan and implement it quickly.
Simply put, a Business Continuity Plan is a plan-of-action your agency can put into place in the event of an emergency or major disruption. The plan outlines your policies and procedures your staff must follow in the face of uncertainty. A typical Business Continuity Plan covers essential vs nonessential agency functions, communication protocols, key asset inventories, evacuation plans, work-remote policies, human resource responses, and anything else that would be important for your employees in a crisis.
Essential vs. Non-Essential Business Functions
First, document business-critical procedures for your agency. Think of it as mapping out the day-to-day tasks in your office. Once you’ve completed your list, answer the following questions for each task:
- Who is responsible for the process?
- Who can be a viable backup (or get trained to be a backup) in the event of an unexpected absence?
- Is this task essential or non-essential? An essential task directly affects the ability of your business to operate. For insurance agents, this is servicing existing customers to keep retention high.
- Does this task HAVE TO be completed in the office or can it be done remotely?
- If the task can be done remotely, what kind of access/tools would the staff member need? Click here to see tips on setting up a successful work remote program.
Second, set up your communications protocol by answering these five questions:
- What will trigger your emergency response protocol?
- For COVID-19 for instance, a confirmed case of COVID-19 in your building.
- Who determines the start of your emergency response protocol?
- For ASNOA, a majority decision made by our Executive Team is the only trigger for our emergency communications protocol.
- How are the steps communicated to all staff?
- At ASNOA, the Executive Team alerts each department head, who in turn hold departmental meetings informing everyone on his/her team. An email is then sent from the Communications Department summarizing the key steps of the emergency response protocol. Click here for an example regarding the COVID-19.
- How is your emergency response plan communicated to your clients?
- For most insurance agencies, this is a simple email to all clients laying out the steps your agency is taking to continue your services uninterrupted. Click here for an example email to insurance clients regarding COVID-19.
- Who is in charge of following up to provide updates and/or inform staff and clients when your business goes back to normal?
Key Assets Inventory
Third, make a list of all your key assets in your agency. List the items (such as computers, phones, safes, etc.) as well as who is held responsible for the items (general upkeep, security, and in the time of a disaster).
Fourth, what is your evacuation plan? Determine where your staff would meet and how you would ensure everyone is accounted for in your office. Practice the plan so everyone in your office fully understands each step even during times of panic.
Human Resource Policy Adjustments
Fifth, decide if you will allow for adjustments in human resource policies. For example:
- Set up a work remote program for your agency to ensure no interruptions to services during a quarantine. Click here to see tips on setting up a successful work remote program.
- Determine your time-off policy during a crisis like the current COVID-19 pandemic. Will you…
- Let employees use standing sick leave, extended sick leave, vacation time, paid time off or flextime?
- Increase sick leave or paid time off for every employee or on a case-by-case basis?
- Let employees use short-term disability, family leave (FMLA) or other existing benefits?
- Allow employees to stay at home and still get paid without taking paid time off?
As an insurance agent, any interruptions to your customer service is critical to your profitability. With a plan in place, you and your team can calmly respond when tensions and stakes run high to ensure the safety of your employees and the continuity of your agency.
And, don’t just wait for the next COVID-19 outbreak to get started. Making a Business Continuity Plan is a great exercise to conduct even when no potential national crises are pending. It forces you to outline work processes, responsibilities, essential vs non-essential tasks and the equipment and/or human capital required; all necessary elements to any annual strategic planning, performance review, and workflow prioritization.