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April 1, 2020

Keeping Businesses Going in a Crisis

Summary:

The key for firms, including insurance agencies, is implementing a crisis management plan to endure the coronavirus or other crisis.

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Global financial markets are fluctuating, daily operations for businesses across industries have been disrupted and masses of the workforce are being grounded from travel and urged to work from home because of the coronavirus. This is an unprecedented situation, and the quick changes can overwhelm businesses.

Insurance agents likewise face challenges, including dealing with any staff and workplace issues and sharing guidance and advice with clients. The key to enduring the coronavirus or any other crisis is developing and activating a crisis management plan. Plans should focus on transparency; factual communication; aggressive planning; operations; and people management. 

Aggressively creating a plan

Failing to prepare can harm a business’s reputation and financial wellbeing. Crises, as evidenced by the coronavirus, unfold quickly. This is why being aggressive is key for businesses—always expect the unexpected. 

When creating crisis plans, business leaders need to imagine the worst possible scenarios and work backward. What’s the worst thing that could happen? How would we respond? What steps would be necessary to rebuild? Asking these questions leads to a well-rounded plan. 

Business leaders must know whom to contact, whether it’s their clients, partners or employees in the event of a crisis. All contact information should be up to date and on-hand for quick communication to avoid last-minute scrambling during a stressful time. 

Crisis plans can’t be created in a bubble. They become meaningless if people aren’t aware of them. All employees need to know how their company plans to respond and regularly perform drills to boost confidence that the plan can be executed without a hitch. Performing due diligence can lead to better results and consistency when the time comes.

See also: COVID-19: Moral Imperative for the Insurance Industry  

Considering impacts on business and people

When developing crisis plans, consider all scenarios—related to health, weather or personnel crises–and their potential impact on business operations. Running through scenarios, no matter how realistic, is a great exercise.

Communicating factual information

The World Health Organization has referred to the coronavirus as not only a pandemic but an “infodemic,” because of the rapid spread of misinformation and speculation online. It’s the responsibility of business leaders to maintain clear, factual communication with employees and clients during a crisis.

Before sharing information or guidance with clients or staff, leaders must ensure that it’s coming from an official, credible source like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization. Business leaders should also:

  • Know the best way to reach employees, clients or other interested parties in the event of an emergency. Think about the most common methods and channels of communication at your business and develop a mix of communication and content that will be most effective and efficient–internal or external email, social media, press releases, newsletters, etc.
  • Not rush communications. Business leaders should maintain regular communication throughout a crisis, but it needs to be factual. Employees and clients alike shouldn’t be kept waiting, but rushing to get statements out can lead to unclear messaging, increased uncertainty and the spread of false information. Take enough time to make sure that all statements are clear, factual and approved by legal advisers before release. Leaders may be tempted to respond immediately, but quickly sharing false information can be dangerous.  

See also: Will COVID-19 Disrupt Insurtech?  

Ultimately, business leaders need to avoid feeding into fear, despite the uncertainty inherent in a crisis. Laying the groundwork for crisis responses can be incredibly beneficial for companies, their people and their clients in the long term.

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About the Author

Jennifer Torneden is a senior vice president and head of sales and distribution for Aon Affinity, a global insurance broker.

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