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In a year where “unprecedented” has truly lost all meaning, how do organizations approach crisis planning moving forward? We’ve worked with countless organizations to plan, develop, and test crisis communications plans leading up to 2020. And eight months ago, had you suggested a worst-case scenario that saw entire countries in lockdown, strained medical systems around the world, and global scale economic downturns and uncertainty, we may have suggested focusing on scenarios with a greater probability. Yet here we are, facing a case so extreme, it did not even make the list of scenarios.

Organizations have differed in how they cope and live with COVID-19. No two organizations are experiencing this pandemic the same. At NATIONAL, we have created the COVID-19 Response Continuum—a strategic framework to help organizations understand where they are now in the pandemic, and where they need to go, and steps to get them there. As many organizations adapt and learn to live with COVID-19, it is time to start thinking about recovery. It won’t always be a linear process, and there will be progress and continued challenges and opportunities.

As companies across Canada adapt to the ever-changing COVID-19 landscape, here are five things to be thinking about in the recovery phase:

1. Update your strategic plan

What has changed as a result of COVID-19? Have our priorities the shifted? Are targets the same? Should your focus shift? Reflecting on major initiatives or strategic priorities consider what stops, what starts, what pauses, what should continue, how, and what’s new. Revisiting your forecasts and budgets and engaging in scenario planning is also a good chance to review priorities. We have some ideas for virtual strategic planning sessions to get you started.

2. Embrace change management

In business, change is constant, and the level of change we’re seeing as a result of COVID-19 is nothing short of hyper-drive. Individuals and entire workforces are working in new ways, and companies are adapting service delivery and products. We’re also seeing a number of workforce reductions, as organizations adapt to survive and thrive. Having a clear change management plan and path forward that is communicated in an open way is crucial to success during times of change.

3. Prioritize employee engagement

Employees are your most critical asset and good employee engagement is key to retaining and attracting employees. In times of uncertainty, employees are asking many questions of their employers; and the best among them aren’t waiting to be asked for this crucial feedback. So, how do you help keep employees engaged during these challenging times? There are a few things that work well in finding out what your employees need and how to respond like surveying your employees and seeking their feedback through informal channels.

4. Be prepared for cybersecurity incidents

With nearly 50% of Canadian professionals working remotely from home, cybersecurity has become a new priority for organizations of all shapes and sizes. The shift to working from home meant organizations accelerated their technology adoption and introduced tools such as virtual private networks (VPN), and collaborative software such as video-conferencing and instant messaging platforms. IT professionals have been engaged to step up cybersecurity practices, for example, many introduced multi-factor authentication as a common guard against threats. While many Canadians report their organization has a foundational or better understanding of cyber threats, there are some organizations who still don’t know enough.

5. Increase and diversify your virtual communication tools

With more people working from home, virtual meetings and presentations will continue to be a part of our COVID-19 recovery plans. We have mastered the mute button, and appreciate the need for good Wi-Fi, sound and lighting. At NATIONAL, we work every day with many clients to build virtual presentations and meetings to create the best moments possible, ensuring key information lands and resonates with audiences. Here are a few of our best tips, designed to enhance your experience.

A crisis doesn’t have to be the end, it can often create new opportunities and beginnings. We’ve seen organizations pivot and thrive in this uncertain climate. The lessons we learn and the chances we take will define our capacity to be resilient.

The pandemic has shown us what’s working, and what isn’t inside organizations—presenting an opportunity to grow back even better. NATIONAL has a network of expert communicators that work with organizations to create comprehensive plans that identify lessons learned and opportunities for growth.

This article was initially posted on the Canadian Business Resilience Network's website.