Putting robust crisis management plans in place

crisis management

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Supporting an organisations’ duty of care is vital in today’s global risk landscape, reports Healix.

The year is 2023 and the global risk landscape remains rife with uncertainty and challenges.

With no resolution in sight, the conflict in Ukraine continues at a precarious simmer, at risk of escalating and spilling into the rest of the region.

In Europe, the energy crisis has delivered economic shockwaves throughout the continent.

Broader geopolitical tensions remain a prominent risk for global businesses and trade, forcing organisations to diversify supply chains or risk facing sanctions.

According to a Civil Unrest Index by risk consulting firm Verisk Maplecroft, global civil unrest risks have hit a five-year high in 2023, with prolonged economic difficulties expected to lead to a surge of discontent against political establishments, primarily in the Americas, resulting in significant repercussions.

Despite the elevated uncertainty and challenges, the volume of international travel appears undeterred, with recovery set to reach pre-pandemic levels.

According to The International Air Transport Association (IATA), global air traffic reached 90.5% of pre-Covid levels as of April 2023.

Organisations now face a widening risk exposure with corporations looking to grow their presence in foreign markets by sending personnel abroad, the emergence of remote working arrangements and the popularity of tagging on leisure days to business trips.

Risk environments are often the product of interconnected factors – they do not develop in isolation.

When compounded, political, operational and security risks can impact personnel and assets off-guard in unexpected ways.

Organisations are encouraged to cultivate a clear and professional understanding of risk environments, in order to establish an adaptable operational posture in the event of slow and fast burning crises, enabling permissive travel and business operations.

Understanding risk environments

A clear assessment of each destination’s security, political and operational risk environment can help inform the risk management measures to support corporate travellers and business operations.

For those with activity in higher risk locations, standardised risk ratings can be particularly helpful. However, such ratings may vary depending on an organisations’ risk appetite.

Through the use of risk monitoring services, resources can be dedicated to assets or travellers in locations perceived as higher risk, in response to changes that suggest a deterioration escalation in the environment.

On top of risk monitoring, businesses looking to better protect their travelling staff and ensure compliance with the new ISO 31030 standard should also consider an individual’s risk profile with the destination’s risk ratings.

According to SAP Concur’s 2023 Global Business Travelers Report, 67% are willing to travel for business this year but 91% are willing to turn down a trip if it raises safety concerns or conflicts with their values.

New personalised risk assessment tools such as Healix Travel Safe, can help support managers by analysing an employee’s unique risk profile.

The personalised assessment will help identify those who may be at greater risk depending on their response profile compared to their peers and share insight on the potential impacts.

Training is essential

Even with the right tools and resources to support ‘duty of care’ and ensuring compliance with the ISO 31030 standard, the responsibility for the safety of employees cannot solely rest upon the organisation.

It is also the onus of personnel choosing to work remotely abroad or going on business trips to exercise better judgement to minimise risk exposure to themselves in hazardous situations and know how to navigate challenges when they do occur.

Organisations can empower their personnel to minimise their individual risk exposure, equipping them with the right skills and knowledge to respond when travelling to unfamiliar or high risk environments, thus keeping global travel programs responsible and sustainable in the long term.

Types of comprehensive training programs that organisations can consider enrolling their staff into as a prerequisite for business travel can include:

  • Workshops covering situational awareness and travel safety best practices
  • Medical first aid
  • (Depending on the respective location or country) knowing how to handle cultural sensitivities
  • High risk security training and hostile environment awareness training (HEAT) courses that can be tailored to specific risk environments.

Crisis management is vital

No organisation can realistically shield against every crisis or disaster, especially in force majeure circumstances.

Although many companies recognise the importance of having a strong travel risk management process and relevant policies, few have a centralised department solely responsible for travellers.

Instead, this responsibility is divided among various departments such as HR, finance and compliance.

While each department is aware of traveller safety, none may have the budget, resources and support to establish a travel risk management process across the entire company.

It is vital for organisations to have a robust crisis management function in place, one that exceeds responsive action and supports business continuity objectives by safeguarding the welfare of impacted personnel during and after a crisis event.

Investing in a dedicated crisis management team (CMTs) is an important step for corporations to secure the future of their business and weather unforeseeable turbulence.

While CMTs vary in structure across different companies, organisations are advised to identify critical business functions and get buy-in from respective stakeholders, who have a shared responsibility for business travellers.

Each CMT will help its organisation develop a crisis management plan (CMP), with well-defined roles and responsibilities, including clear decision making frameworks.

This outlines the exact action and steps required to minimise impact as quickly as possible.

For example, each plan will have a notification flowchart that reflects clear internal and external communication channels as well as an agreed activation criteria that would trigger a specific crisis response protocol.

Travel managers in charge of an organisation’s business travel program and in-country managers should start reflecting on their crisis management plans at hand and update them accordingly.

Organising crisis simulation tabletop exercises to test run crisis management plans and reporting workflow, can help ensure key personnel are familiar with their duties and also spot any gaps.

‘Two is one, one is none’

In a global landscape of evolving risk and threats, investing in relevant training for personnel with the support of proactive travel risk management measures can help alleviate anxiety for business travel.

Understanding personal risk profiles in relation to the environment, and the respective security, health and safety arrangements in place to support them, will give employees confidence to respond quickly in challenging situations and minimise risk exposure.

In turn, this facilitates business travel to higher risk locations and contributes to the overall organisational resilience and continuity of business.

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