Do Your Systems Disappear When An Employee Leaves?

What happens to your business when an employee leaves?

If that employee has some significant responsibility, or in-depth operational knowledge, or even a list of your clients, it can be a pretty big risk.

It doesn’t matter if they depart on good terms or bad, it can still put your business in a bad situation.

The Wrong Employee Leaves for a Better Job Offer

One of my clients had a high level employee who simply left because he had been at the job for years, no longer felt challenged, and received an exciting new job offer.

He left on good terms with the company and had nothing against them.  But he had been there so long, and had so many responsibilities, that nobody really knew all the different tasks he performed.

He gave plenty of notice that he would be leaving, and the managers scrambled to find other people to have him train as replacements.

Many of his tasks were complicated, but were simple for him because he’d been doing them for so long.  Explaining them to others was problematic.

For example, an external data file would come in once every few months that they needed for updating their systems.  The file needed to be formatted, sorted, modified, and entered into their database.

It took him a few hours to do it.  It took his replacement a few days, not including making a mistake and having to start over.

But what happens when the replacement employee leaves?  Incomplete knowledge gets passed down to the next guy.

And that’s just one task.

It took 7 other employees to cover his position when he left.

Eventually, they’ll be able to do the job as efficiently, assuming they themselves don’t leave as well.

Mitigating the Risk

The problem was the business relying on employees to do the work, instead of having them manage systems.

The task of importing that critical data file could have been automated.  If it had, any employee could easily be trained to press the “import” button.

There would be an entry in the systems manual that said, “When the data file comes in, go here, click this.”  Done.

But it was considered unimportant because it was being handled, and there were other problems to worry about.

He did his job well, so nobody ever gave it a second thought because nobody even noticed it happening.

One tiny system could have prevented the need for weeks of training, and months of struggling to get it right.

Having an employee leave should not significantly impact your business.  Build your operational knowledge into your systems and don’t risk having it walk out the door with your employees.

I turn employee know-how into business systems that run the business for you.  If you have important processes that would be impacted by an employee departure, contact me.

About the Author Phillip Theriault

I am a computer programmer specializing in building database software with ASP.NET MVC, C#, and SQL Server.

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