Establishing Guidance in the Absence of Crucial Employees

Key employees – every company has them. These valuable employees have specific knowledge and skills that others simply don’t possess. They know the ins and outs of certain clients and have worked with them extensively on a one-on-one basis. And while it’s good for companies to have these key players in place, what happens when they are “out of commission?”

Whether these crucial workers get sick and are out of commission for several weeks or end up in a tragic accident, their employers are saddled with several productivity issues. They’re also left with a gaping hole in their workforce. When key employees end up unable to do their jobs, the remaining team members scramble to fill those gaps — sometimes without access to the crucial documents and other information they need. By following these steps, employers will be more prepared any time they lose a valuable associate for an extended period.

Identify And Plan For Potential Trouble

The main issue with irreplaceable workers is just that – they can’t be replaced. Or they can, but it takes time because they possess very valuable, specialized skills. Moving beyond that, these employees do crucial tasks for the company, and in some cases, they may be the only employees on board who have the necessary documentation, information, and other critical details for a certain client. Without them on the job, the client may become frustrated and terminate their contract with the company.

To prevent this from happening, companies must put an actionable plan in place for the health and safety of every employee. Businesses who plan on staying active for a long period of time should conduct a risk assessment. If there are employees whose work ethic and skills prove to be of a high value, then the company would benefit from taking out a “Key Man” insurance policy.

This is a life and disability insurance policy that will help a business in the event that a crucial employee becomes ill, injured, or passes away. Whether the reasoning for the employee’s absence is short or long term, this policy will significantly aid the employer. The business will then receive compensation for the following:

  • overhead costs;
  • costs associated with hiring temporary support;
  • costs associated with recruiting, hiring, and training a permanent replacement;
  • losses incurred as a result of the key person’s absence; and
  • missed growth opportunities that occurred as a result of the key person’s absence.

Focus On Consistent Communication And Training

Whether your company is large or small, you more than likely have several communication methods in place. It’s important to continue to focus on communication while also implementing training methods for your team. Training will help employees improve and develop in the current work environment, regardless of how long they’ve been employed. This may also be a great time to notify employees of any crucial business information. Training may be conducted with the use of the following resources:

  • eBooks;
  • whitepapers;
  • case studies;
  • training videos; and
  • podcasts/audio files.

By consistently investing time into the business and training every individual, the company will be able to function successfully even if a vital team member is on leave for an extended period of time.

Adopt File Sharing And Access

Another strategic option involves file sharing. Rather than have your key employees keep their client files saved on a single computer that only they can access, simply create a file-sharing system. This makes it easier for other employees to see how to communicate with clients and stay up to date on what they’re working on. There are many file-sharing services, like Google Drive and Asana, that store documents and other things in the cloud, so they can be accessed from anywhere. On top of this, it’s sometimes necessary to dissuade your employees from keeping everything password protected or encourage them to keep their passwords in a place that one or two other people can access. While a modicum of security needs to be followed, there are circumstances when others may need to access those important documents for the betterment of your company.

Engage In Cross-Training

Cross-training, which involves having several employees learn how to perform the same functions, is crucial to both the survival of a company and customer satisfaction. While you may have one employee who handles most of the tasks, now is the time to begin training others on how to do multiple tasks. This means that the employee receiving the cross-training receives a proper introduction to the client, so they are familiar with this contact as well. They join in on conference calls and meetings with the client, learn the ins and outs of handling their tasks, and have access to all of their files. The more that the employee in training knows, the better. While this plan is in motion, you need to make it clear to the key worker that this employee is not being groomed to take over their position – unless, for some unforeseen reason, something happens to them. This type of communication is important to avoid hurt feelings and incorrect information being shared.

In addition, if your crucial employee isn’t in a client-facing position — for example, they do back-end work on your computer systems or keep the network running — their position can also be cross-trained. Since there isn’t a client to bring up to date, this process involves sharing passwords and computer access and learning how to efficiently do the job.

Take Action During A Crisis

Under most circumstances, no one can foresee a crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic that is currently sweeping the globe and changing lives and businesses forever. However, in the event that your company is currently in the midst of a crisis, key employees are unable to work, or it’s too late to consider the above actions, then it’s best to think with a level-head, be proactive, and take steps that will help your business cultivate the best solutions which will enable you to continue moving forward.

Your first step upon entering crisis mode, should be to refer to and activate your business continuity plan, if your company has one in place. A business continuity plan is an active prevention process that helps protect your company from potential threats and details an operational crisis plan and recovery strategy to be executed during and after the crisis. This strategic plan will act as a safety net to protect your business, assets, and employees when you need them most.

However, many companies do not realize the value of a business continuity plan until after crisis strikes and therefore, do not have one readily in place. If no such plan exists, until your team can strategically craft one, there are still a few steps you can take to slow the damage and keep your company in operational mode.

Press Pause Or Stop – Pressing pause doesn’t mean the song’s over. You can always press play again. Thus, there’s no shame in pushing the pause button to circumvent the damage and protect your company. Sometimes it’s best to take a minimalistic approach and press pause or stop on some projects for a specified period of time, so you can prioritize your time and efforts. For instance, if someone falls seriously ill and their absence is significantly impacting the company in a negative way, your company may benefit from pausing some of their projects to fully address the situation.

Communicate Constantly – You simply cannot over communicate during a crisis. Thus, it is important for one person to be nominated to handle all communications for your company. This person will provide necessary information in a timely, efficient, and professional manner. Employees of the company should hear any and all information pertaining to the business from this spokesperson and not a third party such as a news agency.

Delegate, Delegate, Delegate – Crisis can cause management to become instantly overwhelmed. So, it is crucial to delegate work that is top priority to those trusted, capable team members who can help rebuild. When the work is equally shared between more than one employee, no one will feel overwhelmed by sudden additions to their checklist.

As long as a company’s mindset is solution-oriented and focused on caring for the individuals impacted by a sudden business crisis, then the company may look to the future with a positive mindset and the understanding that they are proactively mitigating risk in a crisis state that won’t last forever.

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