Your best employee could leave

It is inevitable but it doesn't have to be devastating. This article discusses why the leave, what they take with them, and what you can do about it!

A business's employees are arguably one of its most important assets. But from time to time we have to say goodbye to our best employees. When they leave they take with them their years of know-how and operational context. Though we might not be able to prevent their absence there are steps we can take that reduce the impact their leaving has on the business. These steps also make the handover process so much simpler for our business and their successor. We will discuss two of these steps at the end of this article.

Why they leave

There are a number of reasons an employee might leave our companies. Perhaps they joined the company when it was a startup and they aren’t enjoying the culture of a bigger, more established company. They could be head-hunted, decide to leave the country, or, God forbid, get very ill or pass away. This could happen at any time and more often than not the time you have to plan for their leaving will be only as long as the minimum notice period in their contract. 

Regardless of the reason or terms they leave the company on, the effect that a key employee leaving has on a company is often damaging and far-reaching. Most of the time it significantly sets back the hard-earned growth of our businesses.

What they take with them

The most obvious loss is their know-how for the day-to-day tasks that get their job done. But what about those problems they solve better than anyone else? The times where they step up and take responsibility, knowing or figuring out the steps they need to take to move forward. It is possible to help them pass on this knowledge and their problem-solving skills, though it does take some work.

Then there is their experience, they know what worked in the past and what didn’t, and they help make sure the rest of the team don’t make the same mistakes over and over. On top of all this, they will take with them the relationships they’ve built with key people in the industry and internally that make their job go so much smoother!

Will you be ready when you need to replace them?

With all that in mind, are you prepared to hand over all of that to their replacement? Do you know who that might be? Unless you already have a succession plan in place it will probably take a few weeks, even months, to find a replacement. If you only have a month’s notice, or sometimes even less, there is very little chance you will have the replacement ready before they leave. 

The gap of not having that role filled means a much higher workload for your team. They will be left in a mad scramble as they pick up the slack and try to figure out how the ex-employee did their job; They are often underequipped to do so. 

In the best-case scenario, you will find a replacement, internally or externally, that is as good or better than their predecessor. Once they start working it will take quite some time for them to get up to speed. According to an article by Harvard Business Review, it typically takes up to 8 months for a new employee to reach full productivity. During that time they will bug you and your colleagues by asking questions, working slowly, and forgetting their password a few times.

What you can do to prepare

It isn’t all doom and gloom though! There are steps we can take to reduce the effect of losing a key employee will have on our team and our bottom line. Steps that will make the process of handing over the position so much easier.

Measure 1: Having a replacement ready

The first measure would be having a replacement ready for each of our key employees. We can do this either through an internal succession plan or by identifying someone outside the organization that would be a good fit for the role. 

If you are planning for someone within the organization to take over, it is best to have a succession plan in place. A succession plan is a strategy to identify, mentor and prepare employees to take over from key managers when they inevitably leave their positions. This should include a mentoring program, performance reviews to identify potential candidates and a company culture that encourages our employees to try new things and grow. The better prepared they are to take over the role the more efficient the handover process will be.

If you are planning to hire a new team member identifying a potential replacement and developing a relationship with them is a great idea. This will help you to identify if they really are a good fit for the organisation, and could help you figure out if they are keen to make the move to work for your business. You should also review your recruitment and onboarding processes. If you are planning on using a recruitment agency it would be a good idea to identify a good agency that suits your business and its culture. All of this will mean it takes less time to get the new employee ready before they need to hit the ground running. 

Measure 2: Knowledge capture

Another strong measure is capturing our employee’s knowledge; their know-how. The benefits of this go far beyond just replacing employees, and it is something you can start today. To do this, assign a capable employee to interview your other key employees. Someone personable and good at understanding things and writing them down.

They should interview key employees that are known for their high work standards, capturing each of these employees’ knowledge while they demonstrate and explain what they do. They should take lots of notes, pictures, and even videos and screen recordings that record how the employee does their tasks. Once they have captured all of this know-how, the interviewer should use it to create SOPs, checklists, and even templates and scripts. This should then all be collated and put together in a central place to make it easier and quicker for the new employee to get up to speed and work efficiently.

Wrapping it all up 

So losing employees is inevitable but it doesn’t have to drastically slow down the growth of your business. Having a replacement ready and the current employee’s knowledge documented can keep your business growing consistently!

We hope you found this helpful. If so, please let us know. And if you have any queries on how this all works, go ahead and read our other articles on this topic, or contact us to find out more.