What to Do When Your Key Employee Resigns?
Hey there, my name is Sonya Siderova and I help managers deliver on their commitments consistently, all while managing happy, engaged and motivated teams! Today, we’ll talk about what to do when your key employee resigns and how to reshape your business now to build a resilient future.
Your best employee quits.
“How are we going to deliver on the release date? Don’t you realize how important you are to this team? How could you do this to me?” – thoughts start flowing one after another.
And whether these are the right questions to ask is almost beside the point. It is the feeling of fear and despair about the future that makes it devastating.
It may have already happened to you or it is just about to happen. Remember, you should not take it personally. The most important thing now is to learn how to protect your business from the consequences this decision might have.
Warning Signs You Are Managing People-Dependent Operations
Do you notice a shift in the quality of your results when your most knowledgeable employees are unavailable?
How about the performance of your team? Does it change when certain people are present or absent?
We recently went through this scenario with one of our clients. Whenever one of their senior developers is there, everything goes fast and smoothly. The deliverables go out on time and the quality of the results exceeds their customers’ expectations.
But the moment she steps out, the team’s performance suddenly drops down. It’s as though the team as a whole doesn’t have a mutual understanding of what needs to happen to deliver consistent results.
This is a point of vulnerability and a risk successful managers are unwilling to take.
Why You Shouldn’t Rely on Your Star Employees
Plenty of companies are built on the backs of individual heroes.
It is nice to have great people, to hire the best to make sure you’ve made the right choice to move the needle in your business. But as a leader, you must accept that the best will not always be with you.
What happens when they take a couple of days off? How about when they go on a vacation? What do you do when your key employee resigns?
We have to embrace that in this day and age, great talent is temporary.
People will come and go and it’s imperative that you build a system that not only allows you to deliver on your commitments but also enables your employees to self-organize around the work.
Our client had a people-dependent business. And it is a vulnerable place to be in because you don’t want your business outcomes to depend on individuals’ actions or availability.
How to Quickly Fill the Gap
What makes a top employee? Your best employees will amass a great deal of knowledge about the ins and outs of your business, and that’s a good thing!
But if your key employee is about to resign, it is crucial to retain that knowledge within the company.
The most important thing now is to document the key processes in your business that only they know how to do, so the rest of the team understand how to do them too.
Typically, key processes are operational processes that fall within any of the following buckets: developing and managing products and services, marketing, sales, delivery or customer support.
Think about their day to day procedures. What actions do they take to do their jobs? Document every single detail.
The goal is to shift away from people-dependant operations and create systems that standardize these processes.
Why Do You Need to Invest in Building a Delivery System
You have to create systems that produce reliable outcomes and let people make decisions independently.
Let’s say you receive customer requests and deliver results. This means that you have a delivery workflow. Even if you haven’t visualized it yet, you still have one. Your workflow is the set of steps you perform to deliver these results. This is the structure of your delivery system.
One of the biggest mistakes I’m seeing all over again is that managers grow their teams without a solid foundation for their systems. In most cases, the underlying cause of the problem lies in the fact that there is a lack of process policies and management practices to enable them to hit their targets.
If you don’t have a delivery system in place, the more you grow, the more dependent you will be on your employees.
And when your key employees resign, you’ll get yourself struggling to deliver on your commitments. This isn’t a nice place to be!
And if you’re there right now, you have to shift your perspective on building your delivery system right away.
The process of visualizing and optimizing your workflows is where you start, from the very beginning when you gather your team. This is one of the very first steps you should take to set your business for success in the long run. The best time to initiate this process was yesterday. The next best time is today!
Don’t delay! Everyone I know wishes they’d started sooner. This is your opportunity to be proactive and do things right, now, when your business needs it the most.
Get Started by Building a Solid Foundation
So, where do you start?
The first step is to identify your sources of dissatisfaction so that you can head your improvement efforts in the right direction.
Then, you have to reveal the knowledge discovery process you follow to create a board design that maps your workflow.
After that, you should define your commitment points. The goal here is to determine the beginning and the end of your delivery system.
Next, you have to classify your work items by type and urgency so that you can start managing your workflow more effectively, by making data-driven decisions.
Last but certainly not least, you should set the basis of your explicit process policies.
Now, there are plenty of implementation details behind each and every one of these steps. In fact, we have dedicated an entire module in our Sustainable Predictability program to this process.
To make it easy and straightforward for you to get started, we are giving you complimentary access to that module for one week!
Then, go through the module, watch all the lessons and implement the workbook at the end of the module. It will enable you to apply all the concepts you learned in your own business context.
It would probably take a couple of hours to complete the workbook so book the time to do the work on your calendar. If you don’t schedule it, you won’t get to it!
Then, send me your workbook along with any questions you may have at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll personally review your work and come back to you with feedback.
What to do when a key employee resigns? Focus on developing your systems to build a resilient future for your business. These systems will become one of your most valuable assets that will pay off over and over again.
And if you know other managers or small business owners who’s operations are strongly dependent on their employees, share this article with them. My goal is to help as many leaders as possible hit their targets consistently, I’d highly appreciate it if you spread the word.
I hope you enjoyed this article and I’ll see you next week, same time, same place! Have a wonderful day!
Meet the Author
Sonya Siderova is a passionate product manager and a driving force behind Nave, a Kanban analytics suite that helps teams improve their delivery speed through data-driven decision making. When she's not catering to her two little ones, you might find Sonya absorbed in a good heavyweight boxing match or behind a screen crafting a new blog post.