Risk management has a whole new meaning in the era of COVID-19.
In the past, risk management services had already been a valuable (and often necessary tool) for companies. Risk management has always assisted in complex employee-related tasks, including worker's compensation management, liability assessment, safety training and more.
But due to COVID-19, businesses are now navigating previously unforeseen dangers. And as a result, risk management teams have had to step up and adapt their services to answer their clients' needs.
Let's take a closer look at how risk management has evolved over the past year and how the industry changed permanently due to COVID-19.
A New Definition of Risk
Before the pandemic, actions labeled as risky included picking up heavy products incorrectly, coming into work late every day or even not looking both ways before crossing a street. Now, risky looks like going to the grocery store or being in an office with your coworkers.
As we continue to maneuver this pandemic, risk management teams must specify their clients' new definition of "risk." Standard issues have a new layer of urgency and are compounded with COVID-era hazards, such as small office spaces and work-related illness liability.
Firstly, risk management professionals have had to adapt to a client's changing employee benefits. Due to COVID's restrictions, many companies have either considered altering or officially altered their current employee benefit policies on:
- Paid Time Off
- Remote Working
- Child Care Time/Provisions
- Paid Sick Leave
- Mental Health Days
- Paid Family/Caregiver Leave
- Additional Health Insurance Benefits
Adapting to these changing circumstances may beyond a risk management team's standard process. As a result, many providers have altered their strategies, resources and implementations. And more than ever, a client's specific circumstances and company data are being evaluated to strategize.
Collecting Company Data
Company risk-related research and data help risk management teams assess the safest path forward.
Risk-related data could include a look at overall employee health status, including chronic illness, pre-existing conditions or other potential issues. Or, if a company is currently onsite or transitioning back to an office setup, risk data could include the size of a company's office, the number of employees and the minimum number of people required in-office each day.
This data also includes a look at a company's current financial status – how their earnings faired in 2020, how much they're currently spending on insurance and employee benefits, and how much they can afford to change or update these plans in the future.
Collectively, this information gives risk management teams a foundation to build upon to create a more personalized safety plan.
Even more than before, risk management teams are laser-focused on fostering a people-first mentality.
Granted, the safety and health of their clients' employees should always be at the core of a risk management provider's work. But additional COVID-19-related threats and the uncertainty of new policies demand that employee wellbeing be at the forefront of a client's risk strategy.
For companies without a risk management team, most COVID-19 transitions have fallen on Human Resources departments to implement – a rather unfair delegation. While the job descriptions of many departments have shifted over the last year, assigning these responsibilities solely to Human Resources – or any department – is a heavy ask. In situations like this, the focus is less on employee wellbeing and more on ensuring new policies are rolled out successfully.
Here, risk management teams can step in, and implement their new and improved people-first mentality, taking the stress off of other departments while creating a safety strategy that works best for their clients.
What Do New People-First Strategies Look Like?
As always, a risk management team's job is to foster a safe, healthy environment. This goal hasn't been erased – just redefined. Their suggestions for people-first policies may look similar to previous ones but with a few new tweaks.
Risk management teams that have adapted to COVID-19 conditions will advocate for:
- Proper Employee Technology: This ensures that employees can work successfully remotely, away from their standard setup.
- Well-Rounded Employee Training: This could include everything from mental health workshops, physical check-ins while working remotely or cybersecurity education.
- Defined Decision-Making Process: As employees are no longer just a few feet away, having a defined chain of command for questions or sign-offs helps cut down on lost time.
- Transitional Plans: Keep employees in the know about the process of going back to the office (if at all.)
- Health Check-Ins: Risk management teams will be especially interested in a company's employees' overall wellbeing. They'll assist their clients in finding new ways to track employee health and wellness.
A New Set of Skills
Along with new twists on their standard strategies, risk management teams have developed an entirely new skill set.
Pre-COVID-19, risk management typically focused on internal issues and compliance risks. Now, providers are looking externally and learning to assess dangers that were once outside of their purview.
Risk management providers now fill additional roles as both strategic partners for business leadership and employee wellbeing advocates. There must be a deep understanding of both a company's business model and the inner workings of its departments and current policies. The risk management team may be tasked with collaborating with these sectors (or additional outside third-parties) to integrate new approaches. This calls for not only top-notch analytical skills but communication and interpersonal skills as well.
Future Scenario Planning
Proactive thinking is practically a risk management team's middle name. Their specialty is identifying current threats and calculating the potential damage in the future. But in 2020, the world was hit with a scenario no one could have foreseen.
Knowing that current research suggests the likelihood of additional lock-downs, quarantines or dangerous new COVID-19 strains, risk management teams have gone into crisis-planning overdrive. This includes asking (and answering!) questions that were not relevant in past scenario planning, such as:
- "How did 2020 affect my clients financially? How can we create a strategy to mitigate future financial hits?"
- "What risk blind spots manifested during 2020 that our team previously did not address?"
- "How quickly were we able to implement and adapt to new employee policies?"
- "Which employee benefits policies were the most impacted during the pandemic? How can we adjust them in the future for easier transitions?"
- "What fail-safes can we put in place to ready our clients for a similar future situation?"
There's no way to predict how COVID-19 will impact businesses in the long-term. Most likely, companies big and small will be feeling the aftershocks for years to come. But while risk management teams cannot control these consequences, they can help their clients ready themselves for a comprehensive list of other catastrophes.
Is Your Company at Risk?
Risk management has not only changed for good due to the pandemic, but it's changed for the better. Now, providers are more equipped to handle a wider variety of risks, even more focused on employee wellbeing and have honed their adaptability skills to tackle even the most abnormal scenarios.
If you're interested in teaming up with a risk management provider, IPMG can help. Contact us today to discuss your company's options for risk management.