Ever since tech companies started upending established industries and rebuilding them in their image, agility in the face of disruption has been an aspirational goal for countless businesses.
Then 2020 hit. Almost overnight, agility went from an aspiration to a necessity, forcing people and processes to adapt at unprecedented speed. First, entire workforces needed to be equipped to work from home, followed by a scramble to set up processes that allow workforces split between home and the workplace to flourish.
No matter the industry, the organisations that have thrived in this time have been those powered by teams that were able to make decisions quickly and act resourcefully.
As Australian Unity director Lisa Chung highlighted in the report, Governance through a crisis: “Agility, ingenuity and conduct of people are undoubtedly the most important tools in the toolbox for meeting any crisis head on and will make or break any successful response.
“In saying that, while it is vital to have the right people in key roles, it is also absolutely critical that you have the right scaffolding in place,” she says.
The right scaffolding
In 2016, a prescient Accenture report predicted that as the world became increasingly volatile and unpredictable, organisations that could quickly and easily adapt to changing business conditions would outpace their competitors.
“To compete in a rapidly changing world, HR will fundamentally reshape itself so that the function becomes a critical driver of agility,” the report read. “In this role, HR will enable a new type of organisation – one designed around highly nimble and responsive talent.”
While HR professionals are underpinning the ability of many organisations’ workforces to adapt to the changing new realities, with increased change comes increased risk.
The rapid change to working conditions, along with external pressures of the pandemic, means ‘people risk’ should be at the forefront of leaders’ minds.
People risk comes in many forms but the pandemic has elevated many; digital readiness of staff has become a key consideration, while the shift to remote working for many organisations – as well as the reality of living and working during a pandemic – has created potential risk in areas from health and safety to staff engagement levels.
“The degree to which organisations have good systems and frameworks around workplace health and safety for its employees has been telling through the COVID-19 crisis,” Kathleen Conlon, director at Bluescope, Realestate.com and The Benevolent Society reinforced in the report, Governance through a crisis.
“An element of the virus will be with us for a long time and there will be a need for organisations to upgrade their processes and practices around this.”
In the first stages of the pandemic, many organisations had little option but to react to events, workshopping contingencies in real-time and adapting processes after the fact.
For HR professionals that wish to be prepared for future uncertainty and disruptions, taking a risk management approach can be a powerful tool for assessing and controlling the risks that could impair future responses to change.
Taking a proactive approach to risk management makes an organisation more likely to be able to plan for the possibility of future risks and take advantage of opportunities to manage their actual risks effectively.
To learn more about risk management, download our Good Governance Guide starter pack on risk management.
Governance Institute is also offering training on risk management and other topics, online or in-house. Governance Institute offers tailored programs to meet your people’s needs and experience levels, with all training led by leading industry practitioners.
Learn more about short courses at the Governance Institute here.