Organisations should provide their crisis management teams with the correct level of training, investment and support so they can respond effectively to the major global risks facing the world in 2023.
According to the International SOS Risk Outlook 2023 report employers are experiencing high levels of crisis management fatigue having spent the past few years dealing with a series of major events that have significantly disrupted the global economy, most notably the COVID-19 pandemic.
International SOS’ report, which makes five major global risk predictions for the coming year, notes that events in 2023 could lead to a decrease in productivity levels as the cost-of-living crisis and a challenging security environment impacts on employees.
In the light of these disruptive events, managing crisis management fatigue will be critical, notes the report. At present, organisations face what it describes as an ever-shifting ‘perma-crisis’.
Although the report adds that many crisis management teams are learning to deal with this challenging environment, it adds that those organisations that are best able to build on the lessons of the last two years will have ‘more robust capabilities to manage challenges’.
Sally Llewellyn, global security director at International SOS, commented: 'Since the start of the pandemic business resilience has been tested on a macro scale. Many valuable lessons have been learnt, including key takeaways about effective team management in times of crisis to ensure a robust 24/7 response.
'We have seen crisis management fatigue, as a result of this "perma-crisis", continue to be a challenge for some organisations whilst others have put in place structures to manage it. These
include training up alternates for team members to provide relief and support when breaks or time off is needed and providing team members with physical and mental support, to give them time to recharge and minimise risk of burnout.'
The International SOS report has been informed by a number of different research findings. These include the group’s Workforce Resilience Council, which includes participants from a mix of associations, advisory boards, private enterprise and intergovernmental organisations who were interviewed by Ipsos for their expert opinions.
The risk outlook also included the findings from an Ipsos survey of 1,218 senior risk professionals, who are responsible for in-country employees, assignees, remote workers, business travellers and students and faculty in 108 countries.
These influential voices have identified five trends that organisations need to be aware of in the coming year.
The first relates to the power of intelligence and analysis in decision making. The report notes how organisations receive information continuously and the pace and breadth of this content will only increase. The challenge, however, is ‘aggregating, analysing and using the information to inform sound decisions in a timely manner’ the report explains. This is particularly the case for the health and security of employees and for ensuring business continuity. An added challenge is the breadth of misinformation and disinformation.
The second is adjusting to the ‘perma-crisis’ caused by geopolitical shifts, notably the Russia/Ukraine conflict, socio-economic challenges and increasing polarisation. The report puts forward a number of recommendations including putting in place early warning systems to foreseeable emergent risks from the global to local level. This also needs to be informed by trusted analysis, the report adds, and requires investment in support structures to identify and proactively manage complex risks. The report also recommends that organisations pre-empt likely crisis decisions as part of sound crisis management planning, identifying crisis triggers and decision makers. It also suggests that organisations routinely educate employees on risks and the steps the organisation is taking to mitigate them. This involves building ‘a culture of care’ to keep the workforce safe.
The third is planning for the unplannable. The report notes that the focus will be on how best to support apprehensive travellers as concerns about security risks and travel disruption have the potential to result in a decrease in employee appetite to travel in the next 12 months. The report finds that as travel returns to pre-pandemic levels, organisations will be required to ‘manage more real-time information, more granular risk assessment and enhanced travel risk scrutiny, to ensure their travellers are safe, secure and productive’.
The fourth is the impact that climate change is having and an increasing recognition that it is a significant contributory factor in accelerating the emergence of infectious diseases. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the report notes that ‘maintaining enthusiasm and commitment to reduce transmission’ will be difficult, particularly as 2023 sees competing crises. The report calls for organisations to ensure that Health Security is included in their Environmental, Social and Governance framework.
The final prediction is a new era for mental health at work. The risk outlook report notes that the three most common impacts to domestic employees and remote workers’ productivity are cost of living pressures; natural disasters; and security threats. The report calls for a focus on preventing mental ill-health, fostering wellbeing and building a healthy working culture. It puts forward a number of recommendations, notably tackling unmanageable workloads and upskilling line managers with the skills, resources and conditions to manage stress in others.
‘Organisations are well-versed in how to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,’ notes Dr Irene Lai, Medical Director at International SOS.
‘However, they should build on this existing knowledge and broaden crises and business continuity plans to include known health risks as well as potential health threats. It can be useful to run exercises encompassing likely, as well as unlikely worst-case scenarios to ensure teams are prepared. Forward planning to ensure organisational resilience is critical as climate change is contributing to multiple crises occurring simultaneously, and another pandemic is inevitable.’