We live in a world of relentless change. We know coronavirus has led to profound health and economic uncertainty, but the reality is we have always been surrounded by risks; the Spanish Flu killed 50 million worldwide causing devastation. The difference today, is we have much greater access to information and misinformation at the speed of social media and our world is getting smaller. Disruption is our normal – pandemics, climate change, complex supply chain vulnerabilities, changes in technologies and economies, geopolitics, stakeholder expectations, data breaches, people’s mental health and more.

Existing and emerging risks do not disappear because we face a new crisis, nor can we possibly tackle them all simultaneously. We do, however, need to be able to detect new threats as soon as possible and understand changes to existing ones. The processes by which we identify and prioritise them will be determined by an organisation’s purpose and values, alongside the potential scale and likelihood of their impact.

For example, the United Arab Emirates is among the countries most at risk from climate change impacts, such as rising temperatures and humidity. At Multiplex Middle East, managers from across the business took a future centric and proactive approach to this risk. It adopted a revised “Safety in Heat” programme. Multiplex worked closely with a third-party human rights consultant to enable its leadership team, health and safety experts and other project stakeholders to develop an industry leading heat stress management methodology. Revisions and stronger controls in the heat stress prevention plan led to the development of detailed guidance on different types of heat related illness, from heat rash to heat cramps and exhaustion, up to the serious medical emergency of heat stroke. For this work, Multiplex Middle East recently won an IIRSM Risk Excellence Award.

Coronavirus has brought out how interconnected the world really is and the complex relationship between the different risks we face. The resultant crisis has exacerbated the connections, between global supply chains, business travel and the flow of information crossing geographical boundaries. It has reinforced the need for businesses, especially those with an immature approach to risk management, to embed more joined-up systems and cultures that enable much greater collaboration.

“Coronavirus has brought out how interconnected the world really is and the complex relationship between the different risks we face”

Organisations that are best positioned to succeed are those that know how to manage and prioritise both the scale and likelihood of the risks they face. They also instinctively know that their businesses are their people – their commitment, their energies, and their creativity.

People come together with the common aim of contributing to an organisations’ objectives. Therefore, the need to be able to identify, manage and communicate risk cuts across every business function and seniority. Common ways of working help break down professional boundaries. This sort of ‘one team culture’ is essential to building a resilient organisation that can adapt to new and persistent challenges.

Such an approach should be embedded into an organisation’s risk governance system. Stakeholder expectations are greater than ever for businesses to behave ethically and with a sense of social responsibility. Customers and employees are increasingly vocal about companies taking stands on social issues, and regulators are clamping down on societal concerns such as climate change and data privacy.

All this needs to be factored in, as without the right far-reaching risk intelligence feeding in from all
stakeholders, risk management will be ineffective, seen as a compliance exercise, and above all, will be a long way from detecting and controlling the threats that matter most leading to a PR and reputation crisis.
Organisations need to constantly ask themselves:

  1. How will the risks evolve over time?
  2. Can we respond to systemic risks?
  3. What new risks do we take in the future?

A crisis like coronavirus emphasises the need to have healthy, motivated and capable employees. Without them, the ability to navigate any crisis creates a much bigger mountain to climb, let alone enabling protection of the organisation’s bottom line and reputation.

Who should be risk competent

We all know about the ‘big’ risks and those we read about in the media. However, today, still all too often, projects or organisations can be disrupted by several small events that reinforce one another in unexpected ways.
The success of any organisation is fuelled by the ability of its people to be able to properly identify, evaluate,
communicate and address risk. Whatever our role, we make decisions that involve risk, whether we are at Board level or on the front-line.

The risks being managed might be different, but the principles, systems, culture and language should be compatible. Therefore, organisations need cultures where risks are openly discussed, challenged and escalated.

Risk management is integral to strategy development, day to day operations and ultimately keeping people safe. Everybody should have a certain level of risk management ability and responsibility, depending on their role and seniority.

Changes to the way we learn

The current climate has proven that we should never stop learning. Indeed, we must constantly adapt to change, and in some instances, do so very quickly.

“‘one team culture’ is essential to building a resilient organisation that can adapt to new and persistent challenges”

Coronavirus has not just exacerbated the impact of the risks we face, the need for us all to improve our ability to manage risk and rapidly brought forward a change in the way we work, it is also affecting the way we learn at work.

Prior to Coronavirus, traditional classroom teaching was becoming outdated. Virtual learning was already a growing trend to respond to globalisation, changes in the way we work, and the internationalisation of the education sector. Market research firm Global Industry Analysts projected “E Learning” would reach $107 Billion in 2015 and it did. Now, Research and Markets forecasts show triple the revenue of 2015 – e-learning will grow to $325 Billion by 2025.

Technology was readily available to modernise and connect the education sector, but for many, take up was slow. However, the pandemic has forced training providers, schools, universities, colleges and workplaces to quickly turn to technology to continue delivering their learning, and in some instances, stay in business. Virtual learning has moved from being a choice to a necessity – the intimate classroom environment has shifted to an online and more remote setting.

The pandemic has driven the most significant shift in human history within education and workplace training has proven to be one of the earliest and hardest-hit business activities. However, businesses have continued to meet compliance requirements, keep employees safe and enjoy healthier financial margins through online learning.

Research has concluded that virtual learning when delivered well, can be much more effective than classroom
training. The chances of people implementing what they have learnt was around six times more likely.

Businesses cannot stop building their capabilities and investing in their employees. Maintaining compliance and continually assessing current and emerging risks are key now moreso than ever. Organisations that embed a culture of compliance have set rules and standards at the centre of their business. This, alongside ethics and proactive risk management, is what drives culture, behaviours, and performance.

“Organisational culture” was introduced by Dr. Elliott Jaques in 1951, as the “way of thinking and doing of things, which is shared to a greater or lesser degree by all its members.”

A standardised and positive culture to be able to deal with the risks that matter requires an effective legal and ethical framework clearly outlining the organisation’s expectations of employee’s behaviours and conduct, supported by consistent training across all locations. It can only be considered a true culture of compliance if everyone is on board with it.

A rapid increase in the use of digital training globally is under way across all industries. Employers are investing in platforms and providers that can deliver online training to help maintain an impactful learning experience whilst protecting employees. Online training allows adaption to delivery style, ensuring learners are confident with the technology and creating a learning environment that allows learners to learn, respond and interact with tutors and participants.

The entire workforce from junior employees to senior leaders will at some point have to participate in online
learning, which creates new opportunities. It supports greater collaboration and learning across all levels of seniority, business functions and geographical locations, as employees can more easily interact with each other, as previously, they would not have been able to be in the same location.

Similarly, as with open courses best practice is being shared amongst learners from different organisations and geographical locations attending the same courses enabling richer networking and collaboration, and in some cases even new business is being created.

Benefits of virtual learning also include the flexibility of being able to learn where you want and when you want. Physical distance between learners and trainers is no longer a barrier. The flexibility opens the market and gives employers and Learning and Development specialists greater access to trainers and courses anywhere in the world.

Virtual learning will continue to grow; more and richer knowledge sharing will occur this way. A key priority of all responsible organisations is to keep their workforce safe, motivated and skilled even when travel isn’t an option.

“the pandemic has driven the most significant shift in human history within education and workplace training”

A study published by CNBC states that by 2025, almost three quarters of the web population will access the internet solely through their smartphones. All generations are spending more time on smart devices, smart kettles, smart TVs, smart boilers, smart phones. This quick and easy approach to accessing anything we want, and need, is taking over.

Engaging with content, accessing information and conducting business through smart devices is the new norm. So why shouldn’t it be the new norm for learning?

Apps are now available that enable organisations to keep in touch with their employees during and after the pandemic and offer them Health and Safety training, advice and support. This enables businesses to be fully prepared for disaster recovery and to support their workforce should anything like this pandemic reoccur in the future.

No doubt we will see many further changes in the next five years, especially as the quality and sophistication of virtual learning evolves, especially with the introduction of 5G meaning better and faster internet speeds. With any course, whether it be face to face, eLearning or ‘live’ online training, its effectiveness
depends most of all on the quality of the content, delivery and the learner’s learning preference.

Some of us warm to online training, while others shy away from it. But the reality is we all need to build our confidence in using and attending it, as it is here to stay.

Unlike face to face training, there is an off switch with online training. If the presentation, content or engagement is poor, we don’t have to keep watching and, ultimately, we won’t if we are not engaged and enjoying the experience.

An effective online course always provides a learner with the ability to go back to their job having mastered a new skill, process or behaviour. To achieve this, it is delivered in small, digestible bites. It uses real-world case studies and examples, and is highly interactive using different delivery methods, such as video, quizzes, polls, group work, and where people are presenting the speaker is speaking directly to camera, giving the feel they are directly speaking to the learner. It also includes periodic assessments, overviews and recaps as this helps gauge how much the learner is taking in and retaining. This will help determine whether the course and experience has been successful, and the learner has returned to work able to add new value.

The bottom line is, creative virtual learning exists, if the learner and their needs are understood, the content is relevant, up to date and engaging, and technology is leveraged well. Plus, it can also be highly scalable and accessible, crossing geographical boundaries, supporting self-paced learning, saving time and fitting in with our busy work and home lives.

As well as formal or compliance training, there are many other important and more informal ways to learn. In fact, we should be more proactive and make a point of learning something new every day.

Joining a professional risk membership body provides instant access to a wealth of learning and networking opportunities. You become part of a community of people working in a variety of risk fields with varying levels of expertise and experience and from different geographical locations.

Benefits also include getting involved with things such as mentoring, attending local branch events, accessing useful
resources and industry magazines, supporting initiatives and working groups that help develop your contacts and influence, exclusive member discounts on training, and much more.

“news travels the globe at the speed of social media, our industries, processes, governments and even morals are no longer separated by traditional borders”

Change is constant

I think we now know that ‘the only thing that is constant is change’. Heraclitus said this some 2,500 years ago, but never has it been truer.

News travels the globe at the speed of social media, our industries, processes, governments and even morals are no longer separated by traditional borders. This all leads to having more freedom of choice and opportunities in our careers, but we then find ourselves competing in a global market.

It is therefore imperative to keep up-skilling our ability to identify, manage and communicate risk, and self-improving in a pursuit to be able to continuously adapt to make a positive impact in a world that is changing daily.