Business continuity: human resources as powerbrokers?

The proposition that human resources hold one of the golden keys to successful business continuity will be presented on day two of the BCI World Conference and Exhibition in the Listen Stream where we will argue that the HR role in business continuity is often understated, possibly not understood and for many organisations undervalued.

HR Capability ResilienceThis blog first appeared in the Business Continuity Institute Blog Posts at on October 27th. Please share your thoughts with us on how important HR (Personnel) are to your BCM process: are they heavily engaged or just reactive when pushed and how much time do you spend working with them?

Placing people at the heart of the continuity process has an inherent logic about it: organisations are after all a collection of people with a few facilities, procedures, a purpose and maybe some cash holding them together. The more effectively people work together, then the greater the chance that an organisation will be successful. At a simplistic level, shared goals, good leadership and competent people are a good place to start.

Indeed, according to the BCI Good Practice Guidelines, business continuity is “the capability of the organisation to continue to deliver………” and without the right people in the right place at the right time, there is no capability.

Is there a danger that in stripping down an organisation to assess the causes of failure and analyse business impacts we lose sight of the important role of staff and contractors? It may be easier to consider that an activity or a process can fail due to physical disruption, equipment failure or other losses leading to impacts on the organisation rather than examine the role played by the individuals tasked with developing, maintaining and implementing the process.

If this was the case, then people could legitimately be relegated to a footnote in the BIAs relating to loss of key people or teams. Alternatively we could focus on recovery rather than impact, perhaps creating a starring role for HR when things start to go wrong, when response teams are required to act rapidly and implement the plans and arrangements that have been carefully crafted to recover and ultimately protect the organisation.

It would be easy for business continuity to become technology bound: there is a wealth of failures and impacts that affect organisations when equipment breaks, facilities are damaged or the utilities fail. Plenty to keep us occupied and as a result a dangerous path to take, one where we forget the social side of the equation and concentrate on the technology and the systems.

People + Technology + Systems = Organisation

This blog is being written on the day the Bank of England Governor Mark Carney launches an investigation into the crash of the CHAPS payment system. He promises to discover what went wrong and if officials had responded properly. For officials read people. You can almost picture the inquisitor sitting down with a blank sheet of paper and starting to write down the questions to be answered:

  • Who caused it?
  • Who responded when the problem occurred?
  • Who was competent and possibly not so competent?
  • Who checked the work?
  • Who solved it?
  • Who is to blame?

From the day you arrive in your new job until you decide to part company with the organisation, HR play a key corporate role in your business life. The culture you work in, the competence and skills of your co workers and yourself, and even your role itself are all guided by the hands of HR. They protect the organisation, including managers and staff from breaching workplace legislation. They have a significant input to the establishment of strategy and its delivery, because nothing happens without people. All major projects, most major investments and nearly all changes to the business will at some point involve them.

Let me introduce you to a professional group of people who work from the top to the bottom of the organisation, have had contact with everyone in it, help to develop their capability and foster their engagement, and protect you from a wide range of legal liabilities.

Not only that, but as soon as the problems occurs and the world is looking a little less rosy, it would be kind of helpful to have a team who know what skills are available, where they are located, help you communicate across the organisation and ultimately, help build a resilient culture.

But more of that during the presentation. If you can’t wait and want to share experiences or request more detail on how to get HR engaged, then please share your comments below or email us at

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