Preparing Scotland: business resilience guidance

This guidance focuses on how organisations can become more resilient. In particular, it provides advice to Category 1 responders and information to other readers about the duties set out in the Civil Contingencies Act (2004) and associated Regulations.

4. Promoting Business Resilience

Local authorities are required to take appropriate steps to provide advice and assistance to businesses and other organisations about the continuance of their activities [19] , including organisations within the commercial and voluntary sectors in their areas. Although this duty is placed uniquely on local authorities, other Category 1 responders are required to cooperate with them in their delivery of this duty. They will also contribute to the resilience of other organisations through various aspects of their normal work, including crime and fire prevention, warning and informing, and managing their supply chains to ensure their own resilience. It is recommended that local authorities fulfil this duty by promoting Business Resilience externally in the ways described in this guidance (see section 2), including giving due consideration to:

  • the priorities, motivations and skills of individuals, teams and organisations
  • the relationships with external organisations and their resilience capabilities
  • the formal processes and tangible resources that deliver goods or services
  • the risks the organisation faces and potential emergencies that might arise

It is recommended that local authorities approach the promotion of Business Resilience in a structured way that makes use of the full range of their established networks with external organisations. This should be a coordinated long-term effort, endorsed by senior staff, with the regular small-scale involvement of a wide range of their departments. Resilience specialists should support and facilitate an authority-wide programme as well as producing specialist initiatives that complement it. The aim should be to promote a culture of Business Resilience where key concepts become familiar and are seen as important in achieving normal business goals, so that individual organisations are then motivated to develop arrangements for themselves. Work in this area should focus on the following objectives:

  • raising awareness of Business Resilience
  • helping businesses, voluntary sector organisations and others engage with these issues and see their value
  • providing reliable and appropriate information for organisations wishing to develop their Business Resilience

This approach is analogous to that of promoting community resilience amongst the general public or raising awareness of topical issues in specific communities. The particular format for this programme should be tailored to suit each area and the ways in which the local authority conducts its activity more generally. The approaches described below are recommended as building blocks from which to develop.

Because advice relating to Business Resilience is already available [20] and specific arrangements will vary between firms (and because implementation is best addressed by firms themselves once an interest in Business Resilience has developed), local authorities are advised to focus their efforts on engaging with businesses and other organisations, and on reinforcing the key principles of Business Resilience. It is not the role of local authorities to develop detailed plans or deliver in-depth training or intervention on the behalf of other organisations unless they specifically choose to do so.

4.1 Recommended Elements in a Strategy to Promote Business Resilience

4.1.1 Use Existing Networks

Local authorities are involved in many different networks through which they communicate with outside agencies and conduct their business. They should make full use of these to raise issues of Business Resilience and to communicate key messages in ways that are appropriate to the context. For some departments and services this might consist simply of making reference to resilience issues in some of the information they provide or as links on websites. For others, where advice is being given about ongoing projects or activities, or where services are being subcontracted, more specific advice or discussions are recommended. To assist with this, simple arrangements should be put in place to help staff throughout the local authority consider how resilience messages could be incorporated in communications, or resilience items added to agendas. This approach should include:

  • briefing staff in different areas and departments about Business Resilience (stressing its relevance to their concerns and considering their comments)
  • identifying key, generic Business Resilience messages
  • encouraging resilience to be considered when reviewing communications and project plans and adding relevant items
  • ensuring links to more detailed follow-up information are readily available
  • providing advice and support to non-resilience specialists
  • reporting on usage and follow-up

4.1.2 Get Support from Senior Staff

As with internal Business Resilience, promoting external Business Resilience requires the awareness and support of staff across the local authority. This is unlikely to be achieved without the visible support of executive level staff. One of the first priorities therefore should be:

  • to demonstrate to senior staff the direct benefit of promoting Business Resilience to issues that concern them.

This should include, demonstrating the likely cost-effectiveness of the proposed programme and securing their support. This should be followed up with regular reports of progress and selected opportunities to become directly involved.

4.1.3 Involve Staff from All Areas

Efforts should be made to actively engage staff across the local authority with the programme of Business Resilience promotion. This should follow the pattern of engagement with external organisations, i.e.:

  • starting with the priorities of those being approached
  • demonstrating the relevance of Business Resilience to their work
  • explaining that a small effort in this area may have significant benefit for them and for the organisations with which they work
  • demystifying the subject - keeping messages simple and dispelling myths
  • following up with support and advice

4.1.4 Subcontracting and Joint Working

Local authorities can have a significant influence on the resilience of other organisations when awarding contracts or carrying out joint work with external partners. This includes agreements from the relatively small, such as letting of individual properties and local maintenance or supplies contracts, to large-scale infrastructure work. Granting contracts or engaging in joint work with organisations without having confidence in their resilience is a risk that local authorities should work to avoid. For critical services this would be likely to constitute a failure to observe statutory duties and, in other areas, this could potentially endanger service users, or result in financial and reputational losses. It is recommended that local authorities have processes in place which ensure that they consider the resilience of organisations with which they do business. The degree of scrutiny should be proportionate to the potential impacts of disruption to service provision of contractual failure.

Developing and implementing these procedures will require the combined efforts of resilience and procurement staff, with the support of service managers. They should take into account how potentially difficult choices between more reliable and less expensive service providers would be made and authorised. For work with smaller firms or voluntary organisations, these processes should be linked to the provision of advice about Business Resilience to enable the firm to fulfil the requirements of the local authority.

4.1.5 Resilience Specific Events and Groups

Interest groups can be a valuable addition to planning and promoting Business Resilience. As well as having groups within the local authority to take forward the programme of Business Resilience promotion, local authorities should consider establishing a group for external stakeholders including representatives of:

  • Local business organisations from different sectors
  • Chambers of commerce
  • Voluntary sector representatives
  • Local authority business liaison staff
  • Local authority Business Resilience leads - including representatives from neighbouring local authorities
  • Local authority communications team

The remit of this group could include:

  • Raising awareness of Business Resilience
  • Identifying, accessing and publicising specialist advice
  • Providing critical feedback on local authority Business Resilience initiatives
  • Identifying opportunities to promote Business Resilience ( e.g. through local events and seasonal initiatives)
  • Events planning, including training events

The specific format, scope and work programme should be developed according to local circumstances and should be of benefit to external members as well as to the local authority's Business Resilience aims. Although groups of this sort will be of value by providing a visible focus and access to networks for Business Resilience work, only a very small proportion of local businesses will be directly involved in or influenced by the group, so this approach should be used in conjunction with others of broader impact.

4.1.6 Combine Different Approaches According to Target Audiences

Local authorities should combine different approaches according to their circumstances and the audiences they are trying to reach. When choosing which combination of approaches to use, their likely success in reaching and influencing different types of business (and other organisations) should be considered. This will allow approaches to be prioritised and targeted appropriately. To do this, planners should match interventions to the size and type of business sectors [21] and voluntary organisations in their area as well as to the size and type of businesses themselves. Relying solely or largely on one approach, e.g. website, annual conference, is not recommended, as the impact on some target groups is likely to be low.

4.1.7 Business Focus

When introducing Business Resilience to external organisations, begin with messages that are relevant to their main concerns - showing an awareness of the circumstances in which they operate. As the initial aim, in most cases, will be to raise awareness of Business Resilience and to show that it is worthwhile, it will be helpful to start by gaining a clear understanding of the priorities of the organisations being approached and then considering how resilience relates to them, e.g. how their priorities might be disrupted and how the potential disruption could be avoided. Setting up meetings with a predetermined 'resilience agenda' may discourage individuals and organisations who do not yet see this as a priority. It is therefore recommended that Business Resilience is presented as contributing to the aims and objectives of organisations rather than as a separate, independent item.

4.1.8 Focus on the Probable Rather than the Extreme

Avoid presenting Business Resilience as being largely concerned with 'major incidents' and external emergencies. Rather, stress that it is about ensuring that the most important things continue to get done even in adverse circumstances. Although the requirements of the Civil Contingencies Act are based on 'emergency' capabilities, for some people, emphasising the response to external emergencies may make Business Resilience seem more remote or something that is the province of emergency responders only.

Developing skills in dealing with smaller or 'everyday' problems, which are more familiar and seem more plausible, may help to demonstrate the value of resilience to business people. These skills can then be extended to deal with more serious situations once interest has been engaged. Examples of this business-centred, rather than emergency-centred, approach include:

  • encouraging leadership by normal service managers rather than by emergency professionals
  • basing training on plausible, less sensational scenarios
  • encouraging staff to solve problems and develop plans themselves

4.1.9 Dispelling Myths

Some businesses will have misunderstandings or may have had negative experiences regarding business continuity. These might include views that it is not cost-effective, is only for big businesses, or is concerned with issues that are peripheral to many businesses. These, and similar views, may form an obstacle to engaging with business and should be considered when approaching external organisations. An approach to Business Resilience that gives priority to the goals of the organisation, the concerns of the staff and a proportionate investment in resilience, is recommended to address these views.

4.1.10 Measuring Outputs and Assessing Effectiveness

It is recognised that measuring resilience is difficult and assessments must sometimes be subjective. Measuring the effectiveness of promoting Business Resilience will be challenging as it involves self-assessment by external agencies of their own resilience (which may involve bias or which they may not wish to share) and comparisons with a baseline assessment that may not exist. Feedback from small groups, e.g. people attending resilience events, may not reflect general opinion and should also be interpreted cautiously. As direct output measures may be unavailable, local authorities should consider other measures to assess the effectiveness of their interventions, including:

  • whether they have an active programme of engagement with business and other organisations.
  • whether the targets of the programme match the pattern of local business and voluntary sector activity.
  • whether the programme is integrated with other related areas of work e.g. promoting community resilience, internal Business Resilience, promoting local enterprise, and with the core activities of departments across the local authority.
  • whether the programme is well-structured and has support from senior management.
  • whether procurement and subcontracting processes place significant weight on Business Resilience when awarding contracts.

4.1.11 Coordinate the Different Components of the Approach

The different components of the chosen approach to Business Resilience promotion should be coordinated and managed, including:

  • ensure top level support for the proposed approach.
  • identify a suitable manager for the programme - important skills will include: project management skills, an ability to work across departments and with external business and voluntary organisations, and to present Business Resilience as relevant to normal business objectives.
  • agree responsibilities for implementing the programme of work in each part of the local authority - develop an internal network of people at middle-management level who can act as a programme board, advise on implementation in their areas and ensure recommendations are applied by colleagues.
  • identify external links and networks used by each department and consider how these can be used effectively.
  • agree how procurement will consider and take account of Business Resilience.
  • agree key Business Resilience messages and advice, where and how these will be publicised and identify reliable sources of more detailed advice.
  • identify and utilise connections with other local authority work, resilience specific events and opportunities provided by heightened media coverage of resilience.
  • involve others - work with partner organisations and representatives of stakeholders when developing and reviewing this work.
  • develop arrangements to confirm that this work is being taken forward, to provide support and leadership for staff carrying out this work and to identify and learn lessons.


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