Brain drain- when a critical employee leaves

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Brain drain- when a critical employee leaves

By Anna MaskerIn standard12th May, 2011

There is a lot to be said about a star employee—one that holds the company together—the go-to guy or gal that helps run your company smoothly. They may have a big role in your company or they may just be the billing clerk who gets the invoices out on time and accurately. You take them for granted—until they are gone.

By “gone” I mean any number of ways: They leave your company completely, they get sick and are unable to work or they just “check out.”

Most businesses have some backup plans for data—redundant systems, servers, backups to the cloud. But I am surprised that most companies don’t have a backup for their most critical information—the information that resides in the heads of its employees.

Think about how much knowledge walks out your door every day. How would your business be affected if a few key people didn’t come back?

What if that employee is you?

In small businesses there is little room in the budget for redundant employees but there is NO room for the disruption that ensues when a critical employee is absent.

You as the owner need to come up with a backup plan—otherwise you will find yourself constantly distracted and firefighting while at the same time finding someone to replace him or her. It doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking—you probably already do it for when employees go on vacation.

Think of it as extended vacation planning. Here’s how:

Make upkeep of standard operating procedures part of everyone’s job. These don’t have to be long, formal documents but they should entail critical pieces of information about standard policies and procedures– from how much material you order to where all the passwords are for the bank accounts, to the way that certain customers like their invoices processed.

Develop a pipeline of talent. I’ve worked in organizations that get this right—so when there is a vacancy it’s no sweat, they just move up the next person they were grooming for the position. By grooming, that means ensuring the understudy has had the experiences and some of the training the critical employee has while allowing him or her to pinch-hit during vacations or business trips. This will ensure a smoother transition when the time comes.

Cross-train. This may be the easiest to do but the hardest to find the time to do too. The best way to do this is by allowing people to work on projects together, paired with people with different skills or responsibilities to allow each other to see what the other is doing .

Shuffle the deck. Have one person who is doing all of your critical activities? Maybe you need to shuffle the deck and allocate different critical responsibilities to a few different people. This way if one person leaves business doesn’t come to a halt. Spend some time and develop your A-list of critical tasks and make sure you don’t have all your eggs in one basket—with only one person doing them.

It’s time you had a backup plan for the rest of your data—the data that walks out your door every evening. Develop your backup plans now and avoid the brain drain when a critical employee leaves.

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