The COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted business cycles, creating unforeseen changes to everyday operations and upending partnerships. As a result, risk management has become more important than ever. Whether the risk is qualitative or quantitative, a successful risk management strategy is proportionate to an organization’s size and aligned to its mission. As a learning and development (L&D) manager, you can add value to ensure that the program is integrated into the organization’s culture and day-to-day activities. Here is how you can help at each stage of a risk management program:
Identify the Risk
Every company is unique. It’s crucial to identify the context in which your risk management framework operates, including the regulatory or legal environment as well as the size, structure and culture of your organization.
As an L&D manager, you can ensure a comprehensive risk assessment by soliciting feedback from multiple stakeholders through interviews, surveys and brainstorming sessions. After the pandemic, there may be risks that your organization has not yet considered, and every new risk poses unique challenges. However, as an L&D manager, you can actively apply learnings from past incidents, reports or complaints; draw on personal and organizational experiences; and refer to hypothetical or real case studies based on similar projects. For more sophisticated analyses and techniques, be prepared to hire experts and specialized consultants who can move beyond the basic framework to determine the full size and impact of the risk.
Respond to Risk
Generally, there are four different ways to respond to risks. A mitigation strategy aims to maintain business continuity by avoiding delays or interruptions. Risk management programs also require a robust communication strategy, which can be tailored to each stakeholder group. As an L&D manager, you can lead these efforts to disseminate information in a timely fashion from a central, trusted source. It’s also crucial to ensure that communication is succinct, transparent and empathetic. Signposting stakeholders to timely, accurate information from relevant sources can also be helpful at this stage.
If not already in place, employee health and wellness programs, safety training that adheres to new social distancing requirements, and rigorous hygiene and sanitization practices are also imperative. Also consider having medical support and an emergency response team on stand by, and train team leaders on how to manage responsibilities and teams remotely. Technology plays an important role here, so work closely with your organization’s information technology (IT) department to build a resilient infrastructure.
Control the Risk
Once your organization has identified a risk and is prepared to address it, it’s time to evaluate and implement controls that can help alleviate future risk. These controls include reallocating people or equipment, hiring additional staff members, sourcing new equipment, and delivering new training to guarantee the controls are both relevant and ecological. Ensure that all controls your team implements are aligned with government and health regulations. You can also support impact assessments across sustainability, budget and benefits.
Next, review points of failure and success for any contingency plans. As your organization establishes a risk management framework, it should also establish a reporting hierarchy, dictated by the complexity of its risk management program. Remember, the more flexible the program, the more likely it is to deliver against desired outcome. Be prepared to explore options and continuously ask constructive questions. Think of ways you can adapt in a dynamic environment. If the execution plan fails, test alternative plans in advance. Finally, set and communicate realistic expectations and measurable results.
Review and Evaluate
You and your organization will also need to develop, monitor and review the execution plan on a regular basis. Typically, organizations perform a comprehensive review annually, but in the current climate, a semiannual evaluation is warranted. If the review identifies any knowledge or skill gaps, address it quickly.
While we all strive to follow best practices, every risk and every new challenge provides a valuable learning experience; thus, iteration is critical. An agile and adaptable risk management program that prioritizes human life is indispensable in the post-pandemic world. As an L&D manager, you play a pivotal role in leading these important initiatives.