Regulators Top 4 Lessons From COVID-19

September 18, 2020 by Lisa Sigler

Regulators Top 4 Lessons From COVID-19

What lessons can regulatory agencies take away from the COVID-19 crisis?

Tyler Technologies recently hosted a panel discussion titled, “Navigating the New Normal: COVID-19 Regulatory Recovery.” The panelists, experts from across various agencies, gave their insights into what they have learned through this challenging season, and some of the impact it will have on regulatory operations going forward.

1. Planning is Paramount

It is very difficult to build an emergency plan during an emergency. You need to have an emergency plan already created to deal with pandemics, national disasters, or other disruptions in your agency’s operations. Consider what kind of early warning system you might put in place to trigger your emergency plans.

The COVID-19 situation has demonstrated the need for plans to govern remote working, including how to provide equipment, VPN, mail processing, and other resources to a suddenly distributed workforce. Your plans should also account for changes in licensing requirements, as well as for emergency procedures for activities that are usually performed in-person, such as inspections and exams.

2. Flexibility is Key

At the same time, remember that emergencies are fluid situations. Despite your best effort to plan, there is always something you can’t prepare for. For example, emergency orders may come in that require you to redeploy staff or change your licensing requirements. You can’t plan too far out during a crisis, so build flexibility into your planning process. Review and update your plan weekly while the crisis continues.

Be prepared to be flexible with everything, from your workforce to your requirements to your licensees. This will look different in every situation, but some examples you might consider include:

  • Extending license expiration dates to help professionals focus on their daily work.
  • Issuing temporary or emergency licenses to cover urgent needs, as many states have done to help deal with COVID-19.
  • Moving to virtual board meetings to keep operations moving even when individuals can’t gather in person.
  • Adjusting call center or office hours to encourage licensees to use email or other electronic communication.
  • Changing rules for inspections to adjust for social distancing guidelines, including the use of video technology.

The changes you make now can be temporary, or they can influence the way you operate moving forward.

3. Remote Work Is a Viable Alternative

Regulatory agencies have always varied widely in how much mobile work they support; for example, site inspectors by necessity work in the field. However, due to COVID-19, even agencies with strong in-office cultures have discovered that operations can continue effectively with the workforce distributed. In some cases, more traditional managers have learned employees do not necessarily have to be seen to be trusted; results-based management ensures tasks are completed remotely.

Over time, regulatory agencies could benefit from a work-from-home culture because they would need to invest in less office space. Of course, it is harder to supervise individuals when they are distant, and workers may miss human interaction. Especially when the remote work is being prompted by a crisis, it becomes crucial to prioritize the emotional well-being of employees, who may be experiencing stress and anxiety because of the situation. Organizations must adjust their hiring, onboarding, and ongoing management procedures to stay closely connected with their distributed workforce.

4. It Is Possible to Thrive During Times of Crisis

Despite all of the challenges regulators have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, many regulatory agencies have continued to operate successfully. Regulators in Colorado, for example, developed ambitious complaint and case management goals to stay on top of their ever-changing workload. They even adapted their workflows to reduce applications to just 17 days, actually improving their productivity despite all of the challenges they were facing.

For regulators, advanced planning, flexible operations, committed personnel, innovative uses of technology, and ongoing communication and cooperation are the ingredients for thriving even during times of crisis.

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