10 Ways to Engage Staff Effort

One of the hardest things to do, especially at the outset of a business continuity management programme, is to persuade others to get involved in the effort.  And you know you can’t do business continuity in isolation: everyone has to be involved.

Here are ten tips we have for engaging staff in business continuity.  We’re sure you have more: why don’t you share them at the end of this article by using the comments section?

  1. Create business continuity conundrum posters.  Use two-sentence business continuity scenarios as a fun teaser to challenge staff to think about continuity.  Favourite places to display them might be in elevators, corridors and on the back of bathroom doors.  If you have an in-house magazine or intranet homepage, you might ask them to run one a month.
  2. Two-sentence scenarios in team meetings.  If you’ve got your posters sorted and there’s a system of team meetings in your organisation, why not ask managers to conduct a two-sentence exercise in their next one?  It only takes 5-10 minutes and many managers may welcome something different and interactive for the agenda.
  3. Invite staff to meet some really interesting external people. Invite someone external to entice people to come along to rehearsals, meetings or to give a short talk to staff.   Representatives from the emergency services and local authorities will often be available.  Make sure you introduce them and include some brief information about business continuity, and that your speaker brings their points around to business continuity related material.  For example, a local authority emergency planner can talk about local emergency facilities and procedures that are not only useful to know, but also inspire staff to consider their own plans and arrangements. We recommend you meet with any potential guest candidates for coffee before you extend the invitation, just so you can be sure your audience will find them engaging.  
  4. Give staff a free lunch. You do need a bit of a budget for this one but, if you can stretch to it, a free lunch may well attract people to come along to a brief lunchtime session.  You could use it to outline business continuity or run a short exercise.  You could even combine this with “meeting really interesting people” by inviting one of your contacts to come and give a 20 minutes talk over a sandwich-type lunch.  A really interesting lunchtime event every two or three months that you’re known for running may encourage people to get more involved over time.
  5. Do something for charity.  Pick a charity and raise some money for it, advertising the effort to staff as being carried out by the ‘business continuity team’ or ‘manager’ if you don’t have a team!   It’s a fun, friendly and generous way to make staff aware that the business continuity effort exists and provide an opportunity for them to recognise your name and/or face.  And you’re doing something good into the bargain.  You could time your activity for Business Continuity Week or pick another time.  Simple ideas like a sponsored bake (including a business continuity conundrum, rather like a Chinese fortune cookie slip) with every purchase or book exchange (bring a book and buy others’ donations for a nominal amount) work well.  If you’re feeling adventurous a sponsored run, shaved head or hosted karaoke event might work, depending on your organisation.  If you need charity inspiration, go local if possible: children’s charities are often more attractive to the majority than animal charities!
  6. Piggy back on routine events like fire alarms.  Your organisation will be legally obliged to carry out certain safety events such as fire alarms.  You are also likely to find other routine events around the organisation that may provide opportunities for you to piggy back on well-understood events.  For example, you might arrange for staff fire marshalls or team leaders to host a very simple exercise at the fire evacuation point where they ask staff gathering there to take five minutes to imagine what would happen if it was a real fire and they couldn’t get back into the building for the next week.  You’d need to ask those people to give you feedback later in the day on what the issues were and how it went, and you may make useful contacts as a result.
  7. Become known as a useful working relationship broker.  As the business continuity manager you’re one of the few people who probably work across the whole organisation.  You probably also know where there might be opportunities for staff from different areas to assist each other in their arrangements, others who’ve encountered similar problems, and understand who in the organisation is likely to know what.  Use this to your advantage by becoming a relationship broker.  Business continuity teams that can usefully connect people often get better engagement and also receive early “heads-up” on potential issues because they’ve made the effort to be well connected and respected themselves.
  8. Become known as the person who either knows or can tell you how to find out.  Similar to being an excellent relationship broker, if you’re actively engaging with people across the organisation and externally too, you might be able to leverage this and become known as a go-to person for information that others won’t regularly have.  You will need to become skilled in time management if you go this route, but it can be a seriously useful investment of your time.
  9. Run a novelty exercise at organisational events.  It’s really hard to get people to volunteer to run activities at team building days, Christmas events, summer organisation meetings, and so on.   Be one of the people who volunteer to host something at these events and – this bit is important – make it fun as well as useful!  For example, one of us once ran a mini-rehearsal at a Christmas party where the exercise was totally in verse, and quizzes involving the history of the organisation are also good fun and relevant, especially if you can get the odd continuity-related question in the mix.
  10. Run an exercise.  In fact, run lots of them.   Of all the things we do that get people involved, we’ve found that devising and running business continuity exercises is usually the best way to get people involved in business continuity planning.  If you haven’t got yours planned already, do it today!


Do you have more tips?  Do add them in the comments section below!

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2 comments on “10 Ways to Engage Staff Effort

  1. Andy Osborne on said:

    Some good suggestions here. I’d like to add the following :

    - Engage with senior management – the more senior the better. It’s amazing how much interest staff lower down the organisation will take in the business continuity programme if the Directors and the Chief Exec show an interest too (unsurprisingly, the opposite is also true).

    - Include business continuity-related responsibilities and activites in people’s job specifications and objectives, so that they form part of the appraisal and bonus system. If their annual bonus (or their continued employment) is dependent on meeting their objecttives, staff will then have a vested interest in making sure they actually do them!

    Andy Osborne (@AndyatAcumen)

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