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Business Continuity Plans - Running your business during a global crisis

A business continuity plan is critical for the success of any business. In a webinar hosted by The Big 5, a panel of industry experts talked us through the ins and outs of continuity plans, mitigation measures and current opportunities for businesses in the construction industry.

  • Khalil Mechantaf, Senior Associate, Kennedys (Chair)
  • Michael J. Lawrence, Director, Insite
  • Nicky Dobreanu, Business Development Board, The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB)
  • Suhas Inamdar, Head of Technical Support & Planning, Asset Management Services & Solutions, Wasl Properties

Key takeaways

  • It is critical to set out a well-conceived business continuity plan during COVID-19
  • How COVID-19 is impacting resources and disrupting construction projects in the UAE
  • Organisations must continue to invest in the self-improvement of its employees

 

The new business continuity plan: What’s your Plan B during the COVID-19 outbreak?

A business continuity plan is a Plan B for any organisation. It is the preparedness of the organisation to deal with a problem, and the plan of action the company is willing to take to mitigate the day-to-day risks that are perceived in a company.

Over the years, the business continuity plan has been reviewed, refined and fine-tuned to the extent that almost every incident and eventuality was thought to be covered. However, in the last three months, COVID-19 has turned all business continuity plans on their heads.

Almost all organisations have come to the stark realisation that they are not prepared to handle this scenario. Only 11% of the Fortune 500 companies were partially covered to take on the enormity of the effects of COVID-19. As such, this is a critical time to review and rethink the actions needed to be taken to enhance the business continuity plans further, should such an event happen again in the future.

In the face of the total shut down of virtually all aspects of the global economy, a well-conceived business continuity plan is critical. In order to address the impact of COVID-19 on doing business in the future, there is a need to adopt a set of strategies that companies can consider over the next three years.

Previously, business continuity plans revolved around how internal processes and systems within an organisation continue to function. However, today’s business continuity plan also needs to focus on its vendors, suppliers and customers, as well as the duration of the crisis.

Fortunately, every challenge brings a number of opportunities. It is anticipated that home entertainment, home deliveries and home education, for example, will experience a surge in business. Other industries that will continue to be in demand include PPE manufacturers, thermal cameras, disinfection services, as well as ‘smart distancing’ and facial recognition technologies. Digital transformation will also accelerate, and artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will be utilised to analyse data related to the spread of the virus.

As the defining moment of the century, now is the time to review business objectives and march forward for a better future. Market volatility needs to be closely monitored, and the long-term effects on globalisation need to be correctly understood.

From here on, business continuity plans should include two essential aspects: emotional support for employees to protect businesses human resources, and having an IT support team in place to support remote working.

Successfully running a project site in the UAE during COVID-19

Construction has so far been considered to be a protected sector in the UAE. Although the first case of COVID-19 was recorded in the UAE on 29th January, contractors were already experiencing issues with building materials coming in from overseas. Municipalities quickly started issuing directives to construction sites to increase cleaning and social distancing onsite and in labour accommodations. This was followed by the recommendation that non-essential travel outside the UAE is stopped, which impacted overseas factory visits or labour coming into the country, for example.

On 23rd February, the UAE was put under lockdown, and although the construction sector was exempt, there was some initial confusion as to what was required from the construction sector. Soon after, all construction activities were stopped for a three-day national disinfection drive during the evenings, which was eventually extended beyond the three days.

By the end of March, certain areas in Dubai were in complete lockdown 100% of the time, which meant that there was no access to supplies coming in from those areas. The national disinfection drive was then extended to 24 hours, which meant that no one could move without a moving permit on your phone from the police. Although this didn’t apply to the construction industry, it has some initial impact on the movement of contractors and suppliers.

By mid-April, the movement of labour was banned from one Emirate to another, which had a significant impact on the construction industry. On 24th April, guidelines were issued and implemented for the limited reopening of the UAE. By international standards, the situation in the UAE remains stable, and the measures taken by the authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19 seem to have taken effect.

The disinfection of site offices and labour accommodation and the increase in the number of busses needed to transport labour has come at some additional cost. We have seen the implementation of shift work, which is disrupting activities onsite. Once onsite, staff must stay onsite, and temperature testing of labour entering and leaving the site has caused some delays. Social distancing has had to be applied onsite by having employees work from home wherever possible and trying to stagger people coming in to eat and moving through the man lifts. It is also going to be a challenge to enforce the additional PPE requirements of masks and gloves for labour as temperatures in the UAE are starting to rise.

The challenge is to try and record all of these impacts and effects and converting this into understanding the real impact in terms of time and cost on the production onsite. The success of this exercise will depend on the accuracy of record-keeping and how effectively engineers have been notified of the cause and effect of each delay.

Employee training and skills development during a crisis

How business leaders treat people during tough times says more about them than how they treat them in good times. As such, there are several important human resources considerations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

From a physical perspective, it is a failed assumption that just because people are online, they should be available at all times. From a financial perspective, businesses should consider on-demand-pay as a way to help employees manage any financial stress. The developmental consideration relates to virtual development opportunities, while the most crucial consideration relates to the emotional dimension of genuinely caring for your employees.

In these challenging times, individuals and businesses must be smart about setting goals. Be specific about your objectives and make them measurable and achievable. If you set goals to achieve something, make sure you put timelines to it, and you can define that as a smart goal.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is a combination of approaches, ideas and techniques that help employees manage their own learning and growth. The focus of CPD is firmly on results and the benefits it can bring you in the real world.

Businesses play an essential role in motivating their employees to continually self-improve, and they need to know how to convince their employees that they will benefit from attending specific training sessions. By creating a healthy, motivating environment at the workplace employees always upgrade their knowledge and share that with their peers. It is essential to review employees regularly, as this will also inform businesses of their training needs. As a business, it is important to have employees that are an expert in their field and that they continuously improve bringing long-term value-add to the company.

Summary

During the COVID-19 pandemic, organisations must be prepared to deal with any problem by further enhancing their business continuity plans. Whether running a construction site or managing a Fortune 500 company, now is the time to review business objectives, adapt to unexpected changes in regulations and adopt company-wide digital transformation for a more secure future. In times of crisis, now is also the time for employees to look at the advantages of professional development and further education, and for organisations to invest in the self-improvement of its employees.