By Peter Steinfeld
Organizations today face an increasing number of threats that can massively impact both employee safety and business operations. Severe weather, active shooters, economic instability, civil unrest, and global uncertainty topped the list of the most impactful threats to businesses in 2022, and each of these continues to present a significant risk to organizations large and small in the first weeks of 2023. While the labor market is strong (for now), employees are experiencing crisis fatigue, and employee engagement has fallen to levels that haven’t been seen in a decade. Employees’ growing anxiety about the future, coupled with an ever-evolving threat landscape not only impacts employees’ ability to remain engaged and productive at work but also creates increased risks to an organization’s operational stability.
In order to ensure employee safety and minimize loss in 2023 — including time, money, equipment, and other assets — facility managers need robust emergency preparedness plans as well as modern solutions to ensure they can respond quickly and effectively to a multitude of crises. However, overhauling or even fine-tuning emergency preparedness and response plans can feel daunting. Here’s where to start.
Evaluating Employee Safety
In a 2022 study on the state of employee safety, 97% of U.S. employees reported that feeling safe at work is essential, and engaged employees have been shown to be 70% less likely to experience safety incidents, according to Gallup. However, research from Grammarly and the Harris Poll shows that poor communication negatively impacts employee engagement. Good communication is vital to a healthy workforce in general, and it’s especially important during an emergency. When employees are more engaged and feel prepared, they’re more likely to be able to perform critical duties and follow instructions when disaster strikes. Research shows that employees strongly desire information and direction from their employers during emergencies, and effective communication is key to the successful execution of an emergency preparedness plan.
When it comes to employee safety, two-way communication can be the difference between lives saved and lives lost.
Effective communication starts with the ability to quickly identify threats and verify information, and then disburse notifications to the right people, through the right channel, and at the right time. Modern emergency communication systems allow crisis management teams to do just that with location-based safety alerts. Utilizing GPS, map views, and geofencing capabilities, emergency communication system tools help organizations accurately identify and communicate only with those most impacted during a crisis. This also prevents notification fatigue as facility managers and employees know they won’t be contacted if an emergency doesn’t pertain to them or their respective location.
When it comes to employee safety, two-way communication can be the difference between lives saved and lives lost. It’s important for emergency communication systems to have features like read receipts, which confirm all employees at affected facilities have received time-sensitive alerts. Wellness check surveys, in which employees can quickly respond with the number or option that represents their current state, are another way for emergency response teams to confirm employee safety and facility operations.
For example, if a hurricane is approaching an organization’s facility or facilities, employers can quickly send an emergency text message and employees can respond with option number 1 for “I have evacuated and I am at a safe location,” option 2 for “I have evacuated and am on my way to a safe location,” or option 3 for “I am unable to evacuate and need assistance.” This allows both emergency management teams and facility managers to understand which employees may need immediate help or additional resources when time is crucial.
Ensuring Business Continuity
Effective communication is vital for employee safety, but it also supports business continuity before, during, and after a crisis. A recent study by Axios found that ineffective internal communication costs organizations an average of $15,000 per employee per year. Today, companies can’t afford to have even the smallest part of their operations compromised without quickly adjusting and implementing an alternative solution to keep the business running. When day-to-day norms are rattled — from the smallest to the biggest disruption — employees can easily become confused or distracted. Without multiple avenues for direction and communication, mitigating assets and operational risks in real-time can cause millions in financial loss, a massive drop in employee productivity, and an operational standstill.
Utilizing threat intelligence tools and running a risk assessment is an effective way to prepare facility managers for business continuity properly.
It’s nearly impossible to decipher every risk, but utilizing threat intelligence tools and running a risk assessment is an effective way to prepare facility managers for business continuity properly. Newer threat intelligence systems provide a significant opportunity to proactively identify potential threats, align on alternative operations, and alert employees before a threat becomes a crisis. While crises may vary depending on the location and operations, any business continuity plan should include proactive risk monitoring and real-time risk assessment, communication protocols for sending emergency notifications to impacted groups, and details concerning steps to mitigate the impacts of disruptive events until normal operations can be restored.
The ability to quickly identify potential and active threats around facilities and execute an emergency response plan can be a major competitive advantage in today’s evolving threat landscape. If not handled properly, the risks businesses and their employees face can create major safety issues and lasting impacts to brand reputation, which organizations can’t afford to lose. Organizations that invest in proactive risk monitoring, robust emergency preparedness, and communication planning will be well-positioned to both meet their duty of care obligations and weather any crisis.
Peter Steinfeld is the Senior Vice President of Safety Solutions at AlertMedia and host of The Employee Safety Podcast, where each week, he interviews safety, security, business continuity, and disaster recovery experts from all over the world. Peter also leads AlertMedia’s sales organization, ensuring his team has the right information and resources to successfully bring in new customers and prospects. Prior to AlertMedia, Peter held sales leadership roles at Symantec and Dell, among several other enterprise software companies. He has been involved in the emergency communications industry for nearly 20 years, advising organizations of all sizes on matters related to employee safety, and is passionate about helping organizations protect their most valuable assets: their people. Peter is a graduate of Middlebury College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Economics. He also earned his MBA from the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Management at Rice University.