As part of my risk management responsibility in my board service, I am thinking through the potential impacts of the corona virus on the operations and financial projections of these organizations. For companies and not-for-profits that don’t have a human resources department, the Board of Directors is often the de facto entity for reporting, whistleblowing and compliance issues. Our Duty of Care demands that we look out for risks that can impact the viability of the organization and thus, shareholder value and stakeholder concerns. I’m sharing my checklist to help us all think through the impacts.
These are topics that boards should be asking of leadership and the supports that boards should offer. It is the Board’s job to help craft a risk mitigation strategy and monitor its execution. For this particular scenario in which there is so much uncertainty, I do recommend the establishment of an ad hoc committee with a mandate and time line and a reporting slot if you don’t already have a committee for risk or a CRO. I believe that organizations have a planning window of six months. If the pandemic doesn’t happen, as I hope it won’t, you will have had the experience of planning for a major risk event.
- Business Continuity Insurance: Have a lawyer review insurance policies to understand if there are any clauses that would preclude you making an accepted claim and to understand the reporting and documentation requirements for making validating your claim.
- Internal comms: Make sure that leadership is communicating to staff that you have a plan, and show them what they should do to prepare and support your protocols. Since your staff is likely on high alert already, demonstrating comprehensive preparedness will go a long way to opening up the lines of communication that will be critical in the event of major impact. Know that there is potential for discrimination, and you might state a zero tolerance policy for hostile remarks and slurs against ethnic populations.
- Compliance: Review OSCHA requirements, and make sure that your practices are in line with those. This article will support your policy making: http://bit.ly/32GilYZ
- Reporting: What are your reporting requirements to external stakeholders for materially adverse events and impacts to your business?
- Disability insurance: Check with insurance carrier to understand how an employee can access injury insurance if they have to self quarantine for two weeks. Similarly, FMLA compliance will come into play if staffers need to care for someone at home OR school closings impact their ability to work.
- Facility Management: Institute and insist on regular wipe down of all surfaces that could harbor the virus: doors, equipment handles, door frames and so on.
- Campus Policy and preparation: If you operate living facilities, have a plan to support and protect your campus population, ensure that you are meeting responsibilities, and protect the reputation of the institution with proactive planning:
- if someone on your campus gets sick, how are you going to quarantine that person? Should you maintain emergency supplies store of food and medicine (Mucinex, pain relievers, cold medicines, tissues) to support those under quarantine in your facilities?
- What will your containment policies be in the event that Covid-19 is suspected?
- What local medical centers are equipped to handle someone on your campus with a serious case?
- Grants: if your organization receives grant money from federal, state or private sources and your funded programs are disrupted, how will grantors respond? Will you need to return monies already disbursed and will your lose monies not yet given?
- Lost revenue: What is the impact on your projections? Can you make up lost revenues through other means? Is there opportunity for your business?
- Succession Planning: This would be a really, really good time to have that conversation about chains of command in the event that anyone with leadership responsibilities or oversight of key projects falls ill and / or must be in quarantine for any length of time. Succession planning is a crucial board responsibility, and your plans should be reviewed in light of this major uncertainty.
And that uncertainty is unnerving. Experts I’ve read see a six month planning window with widespread contagion in late summer and early Fall. Asking these questions now, drawing up plans and monitoring the efficacy of those plans now means being able to respond intentionally to staff and external stakeholders. These events have the potential to strengthen culture and business operations.