In a recent discussion on effective approaches to business continuity, William Cook, Senior Vice President for Planning & Member Service, Northwest Federal Credit Union ($1.61B, VA), laid out his approach of working with employees to create a culture of awareness. Mr. Cook ran a test of his emergency contingency plan last week. He will share the results of Northwest Federal Credit Union's business continuity test this Thursday on the complimentary webinar "How to Communicate During a Crisis."
Question: In today's environment of economic distress, why should credit unions focus on disaster recovery?
Answer: Of course, credit unions need to continuously focus on business continuity in the event of an emergency. This environment helps us to focus on the importance of being able to continue our mission of helping members and employees through times of distress. Looking back to Hurricane Katrina, I remember speaking with a credit union manager who was running his credit union out of his garage. It was extremely important to his credit union that members continue to have access to their accounts and other essential services to carry them through the disaster.
Q: How do you communicate to your team members? Do you communicate at all levels of your organization? Can you give an example of training steps you’ve taken?
A: The importance of communication during an emergency cannot be underestimated. Keeping all of your stakeholders – employees, directors, members – informed appropriately may be the toughest part of the recovery process. We work hard to keep employees fully informed of our mission, financial status, strategic goals and operational issues throughout the year. One way we do this on a day to day basis is to utilize an extranet SharePoint site with daily updates and alerts on important topics.
During an emergency, our communication plan has been to rely on a traditional phone tree which we test at least annually. Typically, in the past it has taken us about 90 minutes to contact 95% of our 300 employees by telephone. We are hoping to improve our process by adding DigitalMailer's Crisis Management Notification System to our procedure. Using CMNS, we are able to send a concise message immediately to the emails and cell phones of all of our employees simultaneously. This ensures that a consistent message is sent to all employees and help get us through our phone tree quicker. We are also impressed with DMI's experience with using CMNS to communicate with members during emergencies to inform them about branch closings and alternative service delivery options.
Q: How do you build a culture of employee awareness on business continuity? What strategies work and don’t work?
A: Getting employees involved in the process has proven to be the best way to increase awareness. We involve staff on a rotating basis for our off-site disaster recovery drills. We also had extensive staff participation in our pandemic flu exercise when the challenge was not dealing with disabled computers systems, but large employee absences. No one knows how best to do their jobs than our employees, so it is essential that we have their participation and expertise to develop and test our plans for emergencies.