By Andy Watson

Employees are an organisation’s greatest assets. If they work to their best, your firm delivers service to customers to its best.

And when do employees function optimally? When they are motivated.

Few things galvanise people as much as the knowledge that they are cared about. During emergencies such as natural disasters, virus outbreaks and political upheavals, firms must step up their duty of care to staff.

Create and Practise a Master Plan

To deal with unexpected incidents, organisations need to draw up a master action plan for both in-office employees and travellers. Business managers must determine how they will communicate with employees during an emergency, the frequency of communications and the triggering factors. In addition, ensure that you are practicing your plan through drills or scenarios, as well as continually reviewing, revising and improving it.

When an incident occurs for one of your travellers, you will have to react rapidly. As such, it is necessary to have an established crisis management team to agree on the proper protocol for the key departments involved in the event of an emergency impacting employees. This team should pull in internal stakeholders that have well-defined roles and responsibilities, such as travel management, security, HR and legal. Additionally, identify any external stakeholders that should be involved, such as your travel management company and risk management provider.

Ensure communication lines are open. For both employees commuting to the office and travelling across the globe, develop clear emergency contact information for them to use in case of a disaster or incident. In the event an incident impacts an office location, it’s useful to employ two-way messaging tools that can automate incident notifications, so that employees can get the information they need, when they need it.

Stay in Constant Contact

To effectively fulfill your duty of care to travelling employees, you need to be able to pinpoint your staff’s locations anywhere in the world at any time, predicting the risks in those locations, and initiating contact with staff to render immediate assistance when the need arises. This can be done with a good employee risk management and safety communication solution.

Most business travellers find comfort in feeling that they’re continuously supported on the road. Almost two-thirds (66 percent) of APAC business travellers polled in a recent SAP Concur study said they have shared their location while travelling for safety, for example, to let emergency contacts know where they are.

In times of emergency, this ability to keep immediate tabs on employees is particularly important because with the fast-evolving situation, they may unexpectedly be diverted from their planned route or worse, stranded at unknown locations in their destination countries.

If your firm has many employees, you may need to hire a global health, security and travel assistance services provider. These services firms typically provide medical support and other services like evacuations when your staff travel outside their host country. This support will be vital should your security department or travel manager become overwhelmed during an event.

Circumstances may evolve to a point when it becomes necessary to restrict travel. Make sure your corporate travel system allows for quick policy updates. The system must also give HR and the management clear visibility of the state of travel across the employee population, and have automated enforcement capabilities to prevent trips to high risk places or rogue travel.

For employees on the road, develop a clear policy that provides guidance on safety and security. Share company expectations and useful pointers about safe travel.

There are mobile apps that can help you push out pre-trip advisories and/or country reports for employees to review for an understanding of recent incidents or events that may impact their trip. These reports can provide good insight into the political, social, and financial stability of the country before the visit.

Set Up a Productive Telecommuting System

Crises may evolve to a stage where your employees need to work from home for an extended period.

When that happens, there are a few things you can do to ensure they stay productive − create a comprehensive productivity plan; set up communication channels; schedule regular check-ins; and provide essential infrastructure to facilitate working from home.

Such infrastructure will include connection to the phone and Internet. Most homes have broadband and phone access but if these services are not proactively paid for by the employer, staff may not use them to the extent needed for productive work. There are expense management technologies today that free off-site employees from the encumbrances of photocopying or submitting telecommunication bills and other paper receipts – you should take advantage of them.

Smart solutions to enhance employee experience are vital – if communication and collaboration don’t happen when they need to, productivity – or worse, business outcomes – will be compromised.

Employees are the lifeblood of your business. Take care of them, and they will take care of your customers.

Andy Watson is Senior Vice President and General Manager, Asia Pacific Japan & Greater China, SAP Concur


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