Deploying a fully operational remote workforce is a huge undertaking, even without the turbulent time crunch brought on by COVID-19. No matter the size of your company - from small businesses to enterprise organizations – these transitions are tough. You need to be fast, agile, and flexible to maintain peak performance and protect your employees’ livelihoods.
“Moving forward, whether we like it or not, businesses will be judged on their resiliency and how they came out of this pandemic,” says Bob Capwell, Chief Knowledge Officer at EBI.
EBI successfully deployed a fully operational 100% remote US workforce in just 5 days. In the second installment of our two-part series on deploying a remote workforce, EBI’s trusted leaders share a roadmap that should put you on the path to success, too.
ICYMI: Looking for an IT angle? Check out part one of our series for tips for a seamless remote workforce technology transition.
Build a COOP
Tackling a transition of this scope in normal conditions is a luxury. You have time to assess, plan, train, deploy, and troubleshoot. In an emergency – which this COVID-19 crisis is causing - you must do all of this in a shortened time frame with tensions running high.
With so many complex layers, every department of your business will be affected. Company leadership plays a critical role in the success of these deployments. Strong leadership can lead to a smooth and seamless deployment. Lackluster leadership can lead to disaster. In this economy, that’s not a mistake you can afford to make.
A Continuity of Operations Plan, or COOP, provides guidance on implementing and managing business operations so they can be performed in an emergency event.
Hatch a Plan
At its core, a COOP examines the risks to your business caused by specific events – catastrophic damage to your headquarters, a data security breach, a meteorological disaster – and assesses how to maintain business operations if one of them should occur. The best COOP’s have processes in place for both major and minor interruptions and include action plans for deploying remote workforces.
Here’s what to consider as you hatch your COOP:
- Examine risks
- Evaluate effects
- Determine roles and responsibilities
- Create redundancies
- Outline procedures to restore service
Here are some goals to keep in mind:
- Protect your employees and keep them safe
- Restore services to the best extent possible
- Recover as rapidly as possible
- Maintain safe and secure environment – both digitally and brick and mortar
Your company leadership team will be expected to implement your COOP in an emergency event. In EBI’s case, we wanted to ensure our COOP adhered to our ISO 9001 quality standard certification and ISO 27001 information security standard certification. EBI was the first background screening firm in the industry to hold both esteemed standards. We were supported by a committed, thoughtful, and transparent management team and experienced virtually no interruption to our everyday business operations.
As part of our ISO 27001, we're required to manage business continuity. We've had a COOP since 2012. This is something that's been in the works for a long time.
Lay the Foundation
Once you have a COOP, you need to know how to execute it. The best way to do this is through mock scenarios, testing, and assessments. This is one of the reasons EBI was able to successfully deploy a fully remote workforce in one business week.
“Typically, our Director of Information Technology and I will review our COOP and run it through a scenario like a weather event,” says Capwell. “We ask ourselves; ‘What’s the messaging to the staff for their safety?’, ‘How will it affect operations?’, ‘What’s our current operating capacity?’, ‘What staff do have available to work remotely?’”
The purpose of these mock scenarios is to create a micro-event where you must quickly put your COOP into place, and then you can document your responses and assess their effectiveness. If something doesn’t meet your expectation, you can then take corrective action and amend your COOP.
During mock scenarios that EBI previously conducted, we discovered the need for more versatile equipment in the case of a mass remote deployment. Capwell, and Brent Wettengel, EBI’s Director of Information Technology, presented their findings to our company’s Management Review Board. Together, they created a corrective action plan that included replacing aging desktops with new laptops. Making this move made our workforce more mobile and responsive in an emergency event.
“When we upgraded to laptops, we were also able to roll out a Host Intrusion Prevention System (HIPS) and implement hard drive data encryption on all laptops,” says Wettengel.
So when COVID-19 hit, EBI’s leadership team knew exactly what to do because their COOP laid it out for them.
“From managers to leadership, everyone was on board. We knew we needed to implement our COOP and make this happen to protect our employees' jobs and our overall business operations,” says Capwell. “We felt a sense of urgency but we never panicked. We knew our COOP would work because we had tested it so many times.”
No Need to Scramble
If you don’t already have a COOP, this post may be a good starting point for developing one for your business. If you do have a COOP, chances are you implemented it during this crisis and may be looking for additional guidance. Either way, our EBI leadership team hopes our insight is helpful.
This new COVID-19 business environment is challenging for all of us. EBI will continue to support businesses of all sizes with useful information about maintaining operations and background screening.