Posted tagged ‘disaster recovery’

In Times of Crisis, HRO Business Continuity Means Business: Part 3

November 13, 2012

Linda Merritt, HRO Research Analyst, NelsonHall

A deeper dive into business continuity planning (BCP) will wrap-up the series on how HRO can help clients during a crisis.  

As a HRO buyer, in addition to knowing the plans for transferring services to back-up systems and centers, it is as important to know that your account team will be ready, capable, and dedicated to keeping you and your employees serviced.

Communication and Partnership

Aon Hewitt, Mercer, NorthgateArinso (NGA), and Xerox all stressed the need to communicate early and often with their clients in preparation and throughout a disaster.  

  • “No surprises” is important in an emergency and Mercer began its outreach to clients the Friday before the storm made landfall on how to help meet client needs and to provide updates on Mercer’s plans and preparations.

Disaster Central

Coordination in a crisis is critical when normal operations and lines of communications maybe disrupted.

  • Using its prepared playbook, Xerox sets up a situation room and cross-functional team for handling major events and any contingency needs that arise.
  • For several days after Superstorm Sandy, the Xerox New Jersey HRO office was inaccessible with no power and impassible roads. While designated critical personnel were able to work remotely, normal operations shifted to the partner team in Manila and service levels were maintained throughout including the transfer back to New Jersey.
  • Xerox knew that it wasn’t enough just to have a generator since it would need fuel for perhaps an extended time. It, therefore, already had contracts in place with local suppliers and was able to get fuel and transportation when others couldn’t. In addition to fuel deliveries, Xerox had a bus available to pick up employees from several designated locations.

Practice Makes Perfect

Testing is what makes BCP more likely to work in the real world where no matter how good the plan, unexpected events will occur. Ask how often BCP is reviewed, updated, and tested. 

  • NGA holds surprise BCP tests where no one knows in advance it is coming or the scenario used for the mock disaster.

Aon Hewitt’s BCP covers specific needs by location, skills and knowledge coverage, and technology back-up.  Cross training in advance helps Aon Hewitt ensure the back-up buddy team will be prepared for specific client transactions.

Individualize

Needs vary by client and some may be in different parts of the HR monthly or annual cycle which impacts the services needed during an emergency.

  • An NGA client planning for a new system go-live on January 1st did not want a delay because of Sandy but needed to pull some of its own team away from implementation. NGA was ready and able to step into the gap and is providing the client some peace of mind in difficult circumstances.

Business continuity and disaster recovery can and should be a decision factor in the HRO vendor selection process as it illustrates both sides of HRO, operational excellence, and the care and concern that sets HR and HRO apart from other services.

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In Times of Crisis, HRO Has Your Back: Part 1

November 8, 2012

Linda Merritt, HRO Research Analyst, NelsonHall

Whether it is a hurricane, typhoon, blizzard, earthquake, or flood, the weather can create a crisis for businesses, customers, employees, public organizations, and service providers alike anywhere around the world.

The latest natural disaster in the U.S. is Superstorm Sandy and it has severely impacted millions of people across several states. Early estimates are upwards of $50bn in damages. The cost assessment does not begin to account for the loss of life, loss of a family’s home and personal belongings, or the impact on small and large businesses in the area. Our hearts and prayers go out to all of those impacted.

I reached out to several HRO vendors including Aon Hewitt, Mercer, NorthgateArinso, and Xerox on how they support clients in times of emergencies and how they ensure services are provided when they are also impacted.

Be Prepared and Proactive

Some disasters, like hurricanes, allow time for specific contingency planning in addition to the established business continuity protocols. One of those preparations is to consider the HR service cycle and what is occurring during the impending crisis.

For vendors providing benefits administration services, Sandy was heading into heavily populated business centers during annual benefits enrollment. Examples of actions taken included:

  • Contacting clients: Jocelyn Purtell, U.S. Operations Leader for Mercer, said they began pre-storm planning the Friday before hurricane Sandy made landfall. Mercer considered the impact on its clients and whether the storm would hit its client service center in the Boston area. They then reached out to the clients most likely to be impacted to let them know their plans and preparations.
  • Extending open enrollment periods: Aon Hewitt, Mercer, and Xerox all collaborated with clients on extending the annual enrollment period. One client wanted to quietly allow an extended “correction period,” others extended open enrollment and asked for assistance in communicating with employees to get the word out. Pat Quenan, Aon Hewitt Practice Leadership V.P., reported that 40% of its benefits administration clients extended open enrollment.
  • Amending policies or standard practice: Mercer has been able to make suggestions to clients on how to handle crisis exceptions (e.g., what to do if a short-term disability is in process or ready to expire; how to handle commuter benefits in urban areas affected like New York City; etc.).
  • Providing information: Aon Hewitt knows that retirees may be concerned about any delays to pension check delivery and provided information on its voice response system and website about possible delays in mail delivery by zip code. 

Asking about business continuity and disaster recovery is standard practice in an RFP, and it is important to know a HRO service provider’s capabilities. The reality is something more and is embedded in the strength of client-vendor relationships and culture that values dedicated customer service.

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