An increasing number of business continuity professionals and disaster recovery experts are discovering that the most vulnerable links in the continuity of operations chain are the people a business serves and the people who serve them. While this seems intuitively obvious now, for decades resolving the fragility of technology has been the exclusive focus of the industry.
This series has explored in detail why both employees and customers are prone to staying away from business sites, gathering their “tribe” close and effectively voting businesses off the island.
Their Needs, Your Needs and Our Needs
The greatest need of a business during adversity, crisis or disaster is manpower. All things equal, the business able to mount the best response will be the business with the most people responding. The problem is that the same is true for individuals and their tribe (those close to them). This creates the first conflict, the tribe needs manpower and your business needs manpower, but in light of limited resources, the individual employee must choose where to place their attentions. In this equation, the business is predisposed to lose.
Changing the equation means changing the perception of that manpower must be allocated to the tribe or the business to a perception that manpower can be allocated to the tribe and the business simultaneously. To accomplish this feat, the business must partner with the individual to provide one or more of the tribe’s survival need in each of the two survival functions, safeguarding and sustaining.
Safeguarding: The Most Basic Human Function
Before an individual (employee or customer) will leave their tribe and journey to the business, the individual must be assured that they and the tribe are safeguarded in a very concrete fashion. For a business to partner with the individual to safeguard the tribe, the business must not only ensure a safe and secure environment at the business site, but must assist the individual in providing that safety and security for the rest of the tribe whether the tribe accompanies the individual to the business site or remains elsewhere.
This explains why individuals will venture out, even before roads are safe, to purchase building supplies at the local hardware store or obtain medical care at the emergency room. Similarly, hospitals and emergency shelters have long known that if they allow staff families to shelter in place at the work site, absenteeism falls precipitously. Shelter assistance, home repair services, alternate housing sites, travel assistance, even transportation and “disaster daycare” are but a few suggestions that businesses should consider towards laying the foundation for partnering with the tribe.
Sustaining: The Most Obvious of Needs
The key to becoming a partner for sustaining the tribe is to become as essential as the things that sustain each member of the tribe. In times of crisis and disaster, tribes seek to become like spacecraft, self contained vessels protecting that which sustains life; air, water, food, clothing and fuel. Most business disaster plans, continuity of operations plans, pandemic plans and business continuity plans, if they address survival needs at all, seek to make the business site like a space station to sustain the individual. The business owner that becomes a true tribal partner provides for those their business seeks to attract in the same way they provide for their own tribe. In this way they identify the sustenance unique to their locality. Few hardware stores are in the business of selling canned foods and camping meals, but when a hurricane threatens, these stores stock the shelves with water and canned goods knowing that this will attract the customers already in need of the safeguarding that building repair supplies facilitate.
Most supplies that sustain the tribe are common sense items easily stockpiled and even more easily distributed. This is one area where business continuity professionals and disaster recovery experts excel, but it must be remembered that, like the food at the hardware store, these supplies only attract people if they believe their tribe is safe. Moreover, these sustaining supplies only attract people to a particular business if that business is the associated with the tribe’s safety as well.
Welcome to the Tribe
The natural instinct of people during and after a crisis or disaster is to gather those most dear to them, then partner with those most useful to them. In the modern age of organized disaster response, emergency services and volunteer aid, the window of opportunity for a business to be “useful” or even “relevant” is vanishingly small. However, when a business has built relationships with employees and customers, collaborating for needs of their respective tribes, the business becomes part of the tribe and gets to stay on the island.
The next segment of this series will examine,
Part 3 – Gratifying: Emotional, Interpersonal and Spiritual Needs.