BusinessTactics & Culture

What Happens When Key Staff Leave?

Your right hand man has just decided, suddenly, to move to Olympia, Washington, because his wife’s sister needs her. 24 years of knowledge is about to walk out the door, so ‘key staff’ doesn’t begin to cover it.

Let’s pretend that he’s only down to 3 days a week, anyway. But he’s the only one who knows how to run the DOS-based server that holds your inventory and manufacturing schedule. Do you think he wrote it all out in a handy SOP? He did not, because of perceived job security. You couldn’t fire him if he held the program hostage; and he dragged his feet for years on writing out the steps.

And he just gave his 2-week notice.

I hope that thought makes you feel a little sick. I hope you started sweating. Because that’s what happens to every successful company, eventually. You better make real succession plans now, before that storehouse of knowledge and connections is gone.

How? Start by having a solid on-boarding process. Get new people up to speed on your systems as fast as possible, with an eye to cross-training. Make sure that every person (even you) has a basic Standard Operating Procedure for their daily work. Why? Because Life happens, and we are emotional, fickle creatures.

How many partnerships do you know of that don’t have a partnership agreement? How many people do you know that had a key employee quit suddenly, or move, or even drop dead? And then what happens?

Mitigate the risk. If you have someone who’s been with you since you started in the garage on a card table, you are especially at fault if you don’t have their succession planned – you can see that freight train coming from a long way off.

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