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ERM & Surviving the Pandemic: Where Do We Go From Here?

Organisations which took a serious view of risk may have been prepared, but…

In the past four months, practically every daily headline has been dominated by the devastation, death, despair and disruption wrought by the Covid-19 Pandemic. Countries have scrambled not only to identify and treat those infected but protect their economies from the fallout of widespread and very necessary quarantine measures. It has become about protecting lives and livelihoods, and as hundreds of thousands succumb to the virus, we are seeing how ill-prepared we are to face an event of this magnitude. Today, it’s not about the where, when or why the virus happened; the stark reality facing us is how we are going to get through this.

Organisations which took a serious view of risk may have been prepared, but nobody could have anticipated the impact of Covid-19, and its continuing effects, that have thrown the world economy into such disarray. All sectors and industries have taken a hit; some, like air travel, have seen such a decrease in demand that they are close to almost complete wipe-out. Despite some airlines maintaining a fleet – albeit drastically trimmed down – analysts do not expect the ariline industry to rebound for another two years. Similarly, hotels and tourist spots have seen business disappear altogether with cancelled bookings; tourists will fear travelling until a vaccine for the virus is available.

Even so, trade needs to continue; the supply chain has to be maintained for people to be fed, and treated if they are ill. Countries are slowly reopening their borders to facilitate commerce; businesses, many of which went online when quarantine was instituted, or requested employees to work from home, are considering raising their shutters and going back to the office. Now that the worst of the virus appears to have passed, people are cautiously starting to hope again. In the wake of the Pandemic, there are many elements of ERM that organisations can apply to bring the business back up to speed.

Although a very wide range of industries and sectors have been adversely affected by the Pandemic, not all firms have suffered the same level of loss and disruption. Some have even managed to mitigate the negative impact of lockdowns quite successfully and, although still experiencing some pain, have returned to business as usual. They may have had more comprehensive business continuity or disaster recovery management plans in place, and were able to activate these as soon as the need arose. But what about those firms that may not have got round to strategising in a similar fashion, or could not allocate the resources to do so even before the Pandemic?

ERM offers practical, doable measures nevertheless. One of these is communication. Nothing instils confidence as much as information delivered clearly and concisely – even if it’s depressing information! And it has to come with a plan. Firms should communicate their recovery strategy to their stakeholders, and it will be greatly appreciated in this time of instability and uncertainty. It shows you know what you’re doing. Identify your resources as well as shortfalls; engage – or re-engage – with clients and suppliers; keep up to date with new regulations, especially when there is the possibility that some may be eased to help businesses get back on track.

Organisations should bear in mind that lockdown/quarantine is enforced down time that can be utilised for strategising. Distractions during this time will be minimal but information will still be available; it is a good time to plan how the organisation should move forward under the immediate circumstances, and how it could stay on track over the next few years, given that the knock-on effects of the Pandemic will still be evident for a while. Recovery will happen but businesses may have to adapt to doing things differently. If there is one thing this Pandemic has shown, it is that mistakes will be made. But these can be corrected; organisations must learn quickly and use the experience for future mitigation.