HR VP, on the front line of Covid 19.

On Monday, March 9th, UN economists estimated that the Covid-19 epidemic could cause between 1,000 and 2,000 billion dollars in losses worldwide [1]. In France [2], major French groups estimated the financial impact of the virus at the end of February to be more than one billion euros in losses, affecting all sectors of activity. To help businesses, the Ministry of Finance announced a number of measures: the postponement of social security contributions, tax reductions, partial unemployment benefits, and funding for small and medium-sized companies. 

Beyond this State aid, it is up to companies to take radical action in order to maintain the highest possible level of activity and avoid a financial disaster. In this context, Human Resources departments are on the front line, able to identify the vital functions crucial to maintaining business activity while respecting the relevant legal framework. 

Human Resources departments are at the heart of companies' "operational resilience" strategies

The current crisis must push companies to reflect on a long-term vision, accounting for the resources necessary to ensure continued business activity and the companies’ survival. 

HR departments have a crucial role to play, as they are a major contributor in the development of a Business Continuity Plan (BCP). A BCP allows for an almost immediate response to major upheavals, in addition to providing a clear vision of the key skills necessary to ensure the continuity of operations and identifying which staff members can provide them. 

 

Before the arrival of Covid-19, in the wake of other pandemics (H5N1, SARS, etc.), only 34% of companies had indicated "operational resilience" as a strategic objective for 2020.

This figure will necessarily increase, given both the current pandemic and the risk of its recurrence, as foreseen by the healthcare industry. 

It is important to note that, up until now, the only companies with Business Continuity Plans have either been industrials, or those providing services deemed essential: electricity providers, waste management providers, banks, etc. For example, the French automobile manufacturer, Renault, has a crisis unit that meets at the end of the day. The electricity provider, EDF, stands ready to initiate the pandemic plan it created during the H5N1 flu epidemic, which makes it possible to operate its power plants with a limited number of employees [3] . 

The scale of the health crisis today shows that all sectors of activity are affected: we are witnessing a paradigm shift that will require all players to take measures to limit economic impacts. Companies must therefore examine their activities and identify which functions should be prioritized, which can be performed remotely, which can be suspended, and whether new roles need to be created to deal with the pandemic.

The HR function has been catapulted into the role of coordinating this strategic “operational resilience,” and must be prepared to guide and support the technical and operational departments in the implementation of the BCP. This plan is created around the company’s workforce and competency planning development approach; HR must therefore make it possible to: 

  • Validate the provisions taken regarding work organization and the resumption of normal activity, in legal, regulatory and contractual terms; 

  • Communicate on crisis management and the BCP to employees and staff representatives; 

  • Train employees and provide operational support regarding crisis situations and the actions taken to ensure their safety and the stability of the company.

 

The BCP implementation process confirms the progress HR departments have made as business partners in recent years, and illustrates their strategic role in the securing of companies’ operating models. 

 

 

[1] https://www.lefigaro.fr/flash-eco/coronavirus-une-crise-qui-pourrait-faire-perdre-au-monde-jusqu-a-2000-milliards-de-dollars-estime-l -onu-20200309

[2] https://www.lemonde.fr/economie/article/2020/03/04/coronavirus-les-entreprises-francaises-ont-deja-subi-1-milliard-d-euros-de-pertes_6031794_3234.html

[3] Dossier "« Coronavirus : les entreprises passent en mode commando »" - Les Echos, 10.03.2020 

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