Developing an effective business continuity awareness programme

Blog post   •   Nov 17, 2016 16:44 GMT

If standing up in front of a room full of co-workers and explaining why they should care about business continuity sends you into the 'slough of despair', you’re not alone. Business continuity awareness training is often viewed as a once-a-year, 'thou shall attend and listen' death by PowerPoint tribulation. However, executed properly, business continuity awareness initiatives can be genuinely helpful opportunities to ensure preparedness at all levels.

There are straightforward adjustments to the traditional approaches that can help you avoid many of the major pitfalls and significantly increase effectiveness.

1: Teaching the principles of business continuity

Explaining the principles of business continuity to those who don’t work in it might be interesting to you, unfortunately your colleagues may be less enthralled! And it’s not what they need to know. Most your colleagues don’t need to know about business continuity, they need to know how the business continuity arrangements of your organization work, what will happen if they are invoked and what’s expected of them if these arrangements are activated (and, of course, what’s been done to ensure their safety in particular situations).

2: Treating it as training

It’s coaching and support that we’re doing here, we are not trying to impart new skills on people – we are providing them with the guidance. BCM awareness is not about being told how to play the game, it’s about what needs to happen when the game changes – and you don’t always need a classroom to deliver this message.

3: Being generic

Tailor the content to the audience. Different parts of your organization will be affected differently according to their responsibilities and the types of incident that might affect them. This will keep orientation sessions small and focused make them easier to manage, you’ll be able to customize your material to make it much more relevant and actionable. You’ll also have more opportunities for one-on-one questions and follow up.

4: Making a meal of it...

Quick question: When’s the last time you could focus solely on one thing for an hour or more at work? It’s not that easy, right?

Remember, we are being pulled in more and more directions at work, so it gets harder and harder to find time and 'mindshare' for things. With that in mind, be aware of the demands that your colleagues are under, and keep these sessions to the minimum. Look for ways to get a bang for your buck by delivering what’s needed with the minimum fuss. Better still, get creative with delivery – do we really need to set people in rooms can we use internal communications tools, webinars, video content. Remember as the business continuity manager you need to make life easier for these people, not give them even more stuff to read and learn.

5: Treating BCM awareness as an event

BCM awareness shouldn’t be a once-a-year affair. That will only result in it “being out of sight, out of mind” for the rest of the year, and it also perpetuates the misconception that business continuity isn’t truly part of everyday work.

Establishing a regular tempo relieves the pressure to cover everything at once and allows you to refresh awareness rather than letting it go stale. Be prepared to send out bulletins when there’s a major incident along the lines of “if something like that happens here...” and outline the steps employees should take.

6: Failing to track results

Let’s face it, how many of us know who has or who has not been made aware of what they need to know? Is it 10% of the organization, 20%? Or 30%? It’s fundamental to understanding your organization's state of readiness. And how much support do you think you can expect from management when you can’t provide this information?

Awareness isn’t about delivering a lecture it’s about maintaining a level of understanding throughout the organization. For this, the messages need regular re-enforcement rather than the annual 'death by PowerPoint' session. So, look for new ways to communicate the message via different mediums that leverage peoples’ time, that can be executed regularly and send the right messages to the right communities.

Steve Dance is the managing partner of RiskCentric, which specialises in the automation and rapid deployment of compliance and standards management systems. Steve is also a regular contributor to the Business Resilience Forum which can found at