Our last harsh winter in 2010/11 was said to have cost the British economy £1.2m per day in lost business and inefficiencies. Then there are the safety risks associated with bad weather and making sure no one is in danger when they needn’t be.
Weather is ultimately unpredictable. The Met Office may issue severe weather warnings that act as a ‘heads up’ - they may even make predictions as to how many inches of snow are going to fall - but in reality, we don’t really know what is coming until it’s here.
Plan for the ‘unplannable’
Establish a way of keeping employees – and potentially customers or partners – fully in the loop from hour-to-hour or even minute-to-minute. You can have a ton of documents detailing practices in case of ‘severe’ and disruptive weather but Mother Nature is unlikely to follow them (and neither is the British transport infrastructure, if we’re honest). That means you need a real-time comms strategy.
Make sure everyone’s personal details are up to date
Blindingly obvious? You’d be surprised how many people are caught out. There’s no point having a communications strategy if there’s no one to communicate with. Many breakdowns have been caused by such oversight. Take the time to check you have the landline and mobile phone numbers for all your staff.
Use a ubiquitous communications method
Communication methods are, in a way, becoming increasingly fragmented with the diversification of connected devices. On smartphones, for instance (if they’re lucky enough to get wi-fi or 3/4G coverage), employees are likely to be using a selection of BBM, iMessage, Kik, Viber, WhatsApp and so on. The problem? None of these methods is ubiquitous. Even email is rarely viewed as ‘must read’ due to our daily doses of spam. And besides, currently only around half the population is able to read emails on the move.
This leaves the humble SMS and telephone call. We carry our mobile phones with us almost everywhere, which means it is an ‘always on’ channel. Sometimes the traditional methods are the best – but they’re not without challenges.
Provide regular updates to everyone
The days of cascading communications, with line managers phoning their staff one by one should be a thing of the past. A continuous line of communication needs to be open. Twitter is such a popular platform because it trims the fat and streamlines the process of sharing to make it a fast avenue for spreading news and info to a wide variety of people. While not everyone is using Twitter, combined with an SMS (95% of which are read within five seconds), short sharp messages are very useful for issuing time-sensitive information.
Listen and reply
Sending a message in any way that does not allow the recipient to reply is not communicating - it’s broadcasting. Not only do people dislike being spoken at, but the information your employees pass on could really be beneficial to the wider business in provisioning for the severe weather period.
In conclusion: ‘UK plc’ cannot afford to lose £1.2m per day by not being prepared, especially when our European counterparts don’t let winter weather wreak such communications havoc.
Julian Hucker is CEO of Esendex