Following that same writing exercise as before, I have now been tasked with coming up with a generalized training and development plan for when the company is hit with a crisis. The specifics of the plan were not important, but instead, it wanted a general plan that could then be developed further upon review. The crisis is that a large amount of data was lost during a breach of their servers. Here is the response.
Smith Systems Consulting, Inc. (SSC) recently lost a large amount of their data and suffered a complete crash of their onsite servers and databases. This technological failure has meant a loss of communication in many regards. SSC has lost its ability to send and receive service requests, maintain the financial aspects of the company, and communicate with the technicians and other employees of the company. A contingency plan was never instituted in case of a technological crisis. With that in mind, a training and development plan is necessary and will be instituted within SSC to ensure a proper strategic form of communication during a technological crisis. This training and development plan includes training exercises, instituting a facilitator for teaching and maintaining this plan, and aspects of analyzing the company’s current communication culture, accomplishments, and faults.
Analysis of SSC’s Climate and Faults
SSC’s communication culture is entirely centered around technology and communicating through the company intranet. Smaller aspects of their communication take place in a contained and secure work environment, but most of those communications are limited. Browsing the company intranet shows the extent to which their communication apexes.
Rather than holding meetings and discussing aspects of SSC’s services, the entirety of the company’s services is found on the company intranet. While SSC does not have a contingency plan, they have accounted for such actions at some of their client’s locations. SSC sent a risk analysis to Kudler Fine Foods regarding several risks if a disaster or crisis should happen. They also sent a risk analysis to Riordan Manufacturing involving their onsite servers.
SSC is aware that risks and problems can occur if a technological crisis happens with their clients, but they have become complacent in their own risk management. All their service requests for clients are submitted via the company’s intranet. While this makes sense given the company’s technological products and services, it proves to be their greatest fault. The company service requests are not printed or filed on paper. When the servers went down, all service requests were lost, all risk analyses were lost, and the company crumbled from within.
Communication from a face to face perspective is absent within SSC. Some employees, such as the finance and accounting department, work in small cubicles that create small, private, and secure areas of work. Personal electronic devices are not allowed, and they keep logs of transactions and access through the onsite servers. This is all done to ensure security of sensitive information. When the servers crashed, the entire infrastructure of security and privacy became compromised.
Because of those risks, along with a lack of a risk contingency plan, the company is in dire need of a training and development plan to help alleviate those risks. The communication needs improvement throughout the company during both normal working conditions and a crisis such as a complete server crash. The institution of this plan helps alleviate those communication failures in times of technological failure. Planning ahead with a full strategic development plan is essential to surviving a massive crisis.
These conclusions are not founded on pure guess work. Different research methods are necessary components of developing a plan. In one academic journal, the authors say, “Anticipating and preparing for complex environmental problems requires knowledge of system complexity, and the willingness to consider the imagined consequences of different plausible problem responses.” This means that an understanding of SSC and how their business is run on all levels is imperative to developing a successful plan.
One of the research methods proposed by the authors is the idea behind participant observation and interviews. In order to garner a better understanding of the communication within SSC, observation of the daily interactions between employees is observed and documented. After observing the employees for a set amount of time, interviews will be conducted with a prewritten set of questions meant to gather further information about the daily communications and job duties of the employees.
Another method offered is analytical in nature. Performing a discourse analysis, the method of studying the use of language and its intimacy with social norms or context, provides a better understanding of SSC’s communication and job duties. Following this path rather than relying on observations would allow for the capturing of, “how interactions generate shifts in belief, or how interactions add up to changes in the group’s shared conception of the problem and solutions.” This could be performed by a neutral third party with no knowledge of the company and its services in conjunction with the CEO or a designated communication liaison for SSC.
Unfortunately, the development of this type of plan will have financial burdens attached to it. Thankfully, this kind of training will help alleviate any further financial loss during a crisis. Consumers of a company’s services are less likely to continue purchasing those services unless the company provides communication that is, “credible, accurate, unbiased, trustworthy and convincing.” The financial need behind a crisis management plan is necessary for both the success of the company and the happiness of the consumers.
Step One: Identifying Necessary Communication Skills
Given that most of the communication within the company takes place within the company intranet, the first and most obvious step to take is determine what kinds of communication skills the employees maintain. Several key communication skills factor into any businesses’ ability to communicate properly. Those factors include active listening, asking questions, employing empathy, providing feedback where necessary, nonverbal communication, clarifications, and clear lines of communication. In the case of SSC, active listening, asking questions, providing clarification, and clear lines of communication are key skills the company must implement.
Communication is limited to the company intranet, so it is imperative for the employees and management to learn more face to face communication skills. While they may already have these skills when communicating with clients, they do not necessarily possess them when speaking with colleagues. The reasons for needing these communication skills stem from a need to understand and clarify all aspects when the crisis within the organization happens. Each skill requires a different train of thought and a different method of training.
Step Two: Developing the Overview
Once the different communication areas have been identified, an overview of a plan is designed. It would serve as an outline and roadmap for the new plan. During this stage, different steps are developed and finalized. Those steps include performing a needs and tasks analysis, delegation of a facilitator, initiating the training, testing the employees for retention of the training, and ensuring future use of the training.
Step Three: Detailing the Plan
First, a plan manager and facilitator will research and design the plan. This will be an external source with zero previous knowledge of the company in conjunction with somebody from SSC. This facilitator will perform the discourse analysis and design the training for the crisis management plan. The facilitator may designate a team of internal or external employees to aid him or her in the development process. The reasoning for an external facilitator resides in the idea of eliminating all bias and ensuring proper training of the employees.
After creating the discourse analysis, the facilitator will then develop a plan to help change and improve the communication climate during the server crash. This plan will include the actual training and activities needed to garner the proper retention of the information. Each employee needs to understand the importance of his or her role during the server crash.
Step Four: The Plan
SSC needs to understand that technology is a blessing and a curse. While their services are wholly technological, they still work with people in a face to face environment every day. All aspects of the company will submit and adhere to several kinds of training. These trainings include customer service excellence, interpersonal communication ethics, and proper channels of communication.
First, the facilitator will gather all employees from each department and have them all meet in one overall meeting. During each meeting, the facilitator has each employee practice common communication skills and practices. One customer service champion or communication advocate will be designated from each department to oversee future use of this training.
Second, a plan will be outlined for the company in the case of a technological failure. The employees will make better use of understanding the locations and environments of the onsite business. They will also be allowed to use their cell phones in the case of an emergency. This will increase the likelihood of communication and the expedient resolution of any problems. Paper copies of transactions, service requests, and security risks will also be documented along with the intranet.
Third, managers and department heads will be trained along with the employees so that both sides understand the roles of the other. This ensures consistency among all departments and increases communication internally and externally. Without this knowledge, a single collapse could mean an end to their services.
Fourth, drills will be held every few months to test these trainings. The drills will include a mock outage of the servers and how the company responds internally and externally. Employees will report to the department managers, the department managers will report to the CEO, and the CEO will report to the board of directors. The communication liaison assigned to each client will contact said client with information, honesty, integrity, and openness. All channels will link and stay in contact to ensure everything is handled.
Step Five: Reviewing, Assessing, and Retaining the Training
The board of directors will work in proximity with the facilitator over the course of at least a year to ensure the training works. They will oversee the outage drills, contact each client with the new plan in the case of an outage, and test employees and managers by having them answer follow up questions to the training. Surveys including what was learned, what steps to take during the crisis, and how the employees plan to implement the newly learned skills will be given to each employee at the end of the year. Documents detailing the plan in full will be available to every employee in an accessible location.
A lack of a contingency plan is detrimental to a company’s finances, success, communication, and the future of the business. SSC is in dire need of a new plan. All aspects of a plan have been detailed and will be implemented in the coming months. Planning ahead is essential as a server crash could happen at any moment. It is a priority to help secure the future of the company and to help fortify the short-term ideals of the company’s infrastructure. This plan will alleviate those possible contingencies and put in motion a resolution that hopefully provides a concrete and physical way to solve the crisis.