There is general agreement that training is an essential element of a Business Continuity Program. An ongoing cycle of training, exercises, and tests is critical to maintaining and continually improving organizational business continuity capability. And, as with all other components of your Program, periodic reviews and updates of your training are necessary.
Start by asking some questions.
Q. Do all employees know what programs are in place and at a minimum, the purpose of each?
Any plan, any procedure will be of limited value if employees do not know it exists, its purpose, and what it means for them. Perception is reality, and the perception of employees who are not aware of the BC Program is that it does not exist. For them that is their reality.
Q. Does your training program include the appropriate training for all levels of the organization?
Start with the basics at new employee orientation; include annual refreshers. Every employee should be aware of the mutual expectations – what they are to do, what the organization will do. For some, the plan states that they are to wait to hear from their supervisor with instructions for when and where to report.
While it sounds simple, employees who do not know this is the case may show up at their normal workplace, possibly creating confusion and unnecessary work.
Q. Do you include a review of the organization’s continuity-related policies?
For example, if policy dictates that employees are not to make statements to the media, make sure they know that is the case and provide the name and contact information of the person(s) to whom media representatives are to be referred.
Q. Does training for BC team members – primary and alternates – go well beyond handing someone a plan document or checklist and assuming they understand and can carry out the assigned duties?
Not only must they know what to do, in addition, they should have an in-depth understanding of how their actions fit in the overall picture. This awareness has been shown to be the largest factor contributing to compliance with established continuity-related policies and preparedness activities prior to an event and to following established procedures when a disruption occurs.
Q. Is there a big picture approach to the training… an annual schedule of orientation and refresher sessions, training, exercises, and tests?
This all-inclusive approach gets BC training opportunities on everyone’s calendar well ahead of scheduled dates, helping to ensure the availability of people and training facilities. Establish a curriculum outline for each training component… training goal, information to be covered, to whom it is directed, training duration, how often it will be conducted, and outside resources required. Poll BC teams to learn what additional training would be helpful.
Consider using expert external trainers who bring new insights and experience or who can provide specialized training for employees seeking advanced training or professional certifications.
Q. Is consideration given to how adults learn?
Research on adult learning (e.g., Malcolm Knowles’s work on “andragogy”) has shown that there are some characteristics that are typical of most adult learners. Here are five to consider.
- While adults can learn from reading, listening to lectures, and watching, they learn more from interactive learning that allows them to be involved. Exercises, group discussions, and activities lead to improved learning.
- They want to know how the training will help them. Can they apply what they learn in real life? Does the training help them advance their career? When employees see the value the training has for them, they are more motivated and committed to the training.
- Actual life experiences of trainers and trainees are a meaningful resource. Both bring knowledge into the room and make the training collaborative. Beyond formal training content, information that is current and relevant keeps the topic fresh, up-to-date, and relatable.
- While managing disasters is serious business, training need not always be grim. Used appropriately, humor is an excellent teaching tool.
- Avoid overusing jargon and acronyms (e.g., BCP, BIA, RTO) that may seem like a foreign language for those new to business continuity. Define special terminology; provide a glossary.
Q. Does your business continuity program include the appropriate level of training for all employees… from the mail room to the executive offices?
A well-designed training program helps ensure that everyone is aware of the part they play. The result is greater program maturity, a better prepared organization, and a stronger line of defense against future disasters.