The evolving coronavirus crisis has cast deep uncertainty on multiple facets of everyday life—and the business world is not immune.
Global financial markets are fluctuating, daily operations for businesses of every size and across almost every industry have been disrupted, and large masses of the workforce are being grounded from travel and urged to work from home. To say the least, this unprecedented situation can quickly become overwhelming for businesses to manage.
Insurance agents have a two-fold challenge during these times: appropriately deal with any staff and workplace issues and maintain guidance and advice for clients.
Developing and activating a crisis management plan centered on three best practices—transparent, factual communication; proactive planning; and operations and people management—is the key to successfully enduring the coronavirus or any other crisis.
Maintaining Strong Communication
The World Health Organization (WHO) is referring to coronavirus as not only a pandemic, but an infodemic, due to the dangerously rapid spread of misinformation and speculation online. Business leaders have a responsibility to maintain clear, factual communication with employees and clients in the midst of a crisis.
Most importantly, before they share information or guidance with clients or staff, they should ensure that it’s coming from an official, credible source like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and WHO. In addition, it’s advisable for business leaders to:
1) Consider the best ways to reach people, whether employees, clients or other interested party. Think about the most common methods and channels of communication at your business—internal or external email, social media, press releases, newsletters and more—and develop a mix of communication and content that will be most effective and efficient.
2) Communicate regularly, but don’t rush. Employees and clients alike shouldn’t be kept waiting unnecessarily. However, rushing to get statements out can lead to unclear messaging, increased uncertainty and the spread of false information. Take time to ensure that all statements are clear, factual and approved by your legal department before release. It can be tempting to respond immediately, and communication should be quick, but sharing the right information is critical.
Developing a Plan
As evidenced by the coronavirus situation, things happen fast. Businesses need to be proactive and expect the unexpected. Failing to do so can be detrimental to a business’s financial wellbeing as well as their reputation.
Businesses should imagine the worst possible scenarios and work backward. What’s the worst thing that could happen? How would we respond? What specific steps would we take to rebuild? Who is the first person we’d contact if this actually happened? These are all questions that should be asked while putting a well-rounded plan together.
It’s important to note that crisis plans should not be created in a bubble. If only a few people are aware of these plans, they become useless. Make all employees aware and regularly perform drills to make people feel more confident in their responses. You can’t plan for everything, but you can put your best foot forward in preparation.
In the event of a crisis, business leaders must know who to contact, whether it’s their clients, partners or employees. All contact information should be up to date and accessible for quick communication. This can avoid last-minute scrambling during a stressful time.
Analyzing Business and People Impacts
As crisis plans are developed, it’s important to consider how certain crises could potentially impact business operations. All scenarios you can think of should be considered, from health and weather to personnel crises—you never know what could happen. As a general rule of thumb, though some scenarios may seem unrealistic, consider the worst.
Agents and brokers are well accustomed to managing risk profiles, and as the coronavirus continues to intensify it will no doubt impact many sectors of business. Using your best judgment, thinking critically and enacting and adapting plans accordingly are the best ways to manage a crisis.
The coronavirus is a known risk. Business leaders need to do their part to share factual information and not feed into fear, despite the uncertainty. Although you can’t prepare for everything, having a plan can lay the groundwork in responding to crises.
Jennifer Torneden is a senior vice president and director of broker distribution for Aon Affinity, a global insurance broker.
This information has been provided as an informational resource for Aon clients and business partners. It is intended to provide general guidance on potential exposures, and is not intended to provide medical advice or address medical concerns or specific risk circumstances.
Due to the dynamic nature of infectious diseases, Aon cannot be held liable for the guidance provided. We strongly encourage visitors to seek additional safety, medical and epidemiologic information from credible sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization.
As regards insurance coverage questions, whether coverage applies or a policy will respond to any risk or circumstance is subject to the specific terms and conditions of the policies and contracts at issue and underwriter determinations.