How to Avoid Business Disruption During the "Great Resignation"
By Mike Raia Posted August 3, 2021
Employees are leaving their jobs at a growing rate for a variety of reasons. How do you avoid damaging business disruption?
As per new stories and likely your own personal experience, workers across the country are leaving or considering leaving their jobs. The reasons are myriad and include higher expectations for work/life balance, re-thinking careers, confidence in finding higher pay, high stress, and more.
This current mass exodus of workers is having a big impact on employers in a variety of ways. Hiring has become difficult, talent and knowledge are being lost, and remaining workers are being overburdened.
While the current situation is extreme, it's really a turbocharged version of what employers go through every day when people leave. Losing employees is always hard, especially when you haven't prepared for it.
Here are some ways to cushion the blow of losing talent.
Start Documenting Everything
There are a lot of good reasons to get serious about documentation in your department. It may seem like overkill until someone leaves the department or organization and another staff member can easily slide in to cover the knowledge gap. Reducing this "tribal knowledge," or information known by a select few protects the consistent operation of your business and helps you avoid downtime/ramp-up time with new employees.
The place to start your documentation efforts is documenting your processes.
Document Your Processes
We've written at length about the why and how you should document your processes, but to boil it down, it will help you:
- Provide transparency into who does what, when, and how.
- Build out training documentation
- Allow for process improvement
- Reduce risk and improve compliance
Process documentation should include policies, processes, and procedures. These form the roadmap for your efforts.
Read our post, "How to Write Process Documentation" for a boatload of tips and best practices.
Cross-Train While You Can
Cross-training refers to staff members learning more than one role or one set of tasks. While there are benefits to specialization, depending on the organization/department, there can be a lot more value in having more than one individual know how to perform certain functions.
There are other benefits to cross-training, including job enrichment, employee motivation, flexibility, opportunities for lateral hiring, and more, but here we are focused purely on avoiding risk.
Unfortunately, many managers don't realize they lack cross-training until it's too late and an employee leaves or is unavailable for an extended period. Before that happens, you can take steps to improve your skills coverage.
- Explain the goal of cross-training for your organization to staff. Some may feel concerned that their roles may somehow be in jeopardy, so be prepared to soothe these feelings. Most employees don't want things to fall apart when they're on vacation or out sick.
- Audit your staff and document all the tasks being performed and who knows how to perform them. In many cases, an employee may indicate they are the only one who knows. This should raise alarm bells.
- Work with employees to develop training materials, step-by-step guides, contact lists, reference sheets, etc. It may be helpful to bring in an outside consultant or assign someone internally to own training development to ensure quality and consistency.
- Identify possible cross-train candidates and set up training sessions.
For more, Indeed.com has a great post on the topic of cross-training.
Automate Wherever Possible
The automation of a given process can involve one simple request and approval workflow or encompass several different cross-departmental tasks and resources that need to be performed.
Fortunately, if you've followed our advice so far, you'll have all your processes documented, which makes automating them much easier. Any workflow that involves emails, spreadsheets, forms, etc. can likely become an automated process in a workflow automation platform. Building out the required forms and processes is done via a drag and drop interface where a shape represents each task and is then connected in the proper sequence.
Automation turns your "standard operating procedures" into live, dynamic workflows that provide forms for data entry, assign tasks, follow business logic, send alerts/reminders, and provide reporting on performance.
Many organizations handle employee offboarding, or "termination procedures," through loose, manual processes like emails, phone calls, and private conversations. In an ideal world, an employee offboarding procedure would be a systematic approach to handle departures and reduce risk. Companies with uneven offboarding processes frequently face data security concerns in the real world.
Important termination rules, such as deprovisioning accounts, can easily slip through the cracks when an organization's offboarding process is poorly defined or reliant on paper. A survey by security firm Cyber-Ark found "88 percent of information technology workers would take sensitive data with them or abscond with company passwords if they were fired." Another survey found that "50% of ex-employees can still access corporate apps." Research shows that many companies still have holes in their systems despite the growing dangers of not properly offboarding employees.
Numerous additional aspects of the offboarding process should be automated in order to avoid policy breaches and guarantee policy consistency. Here are a few examples:
- Ensure that performance assessments, disciplinary action forms, and attendance records are all in good working condition.
- Ensure that the compliance processes are followed and documented in all locations to avoid future litigation.
- Access cards are being decommissioned.
- Property of the firm must be identified and returned.
- Give the departed employee's supervisor access to local, network, and cloud-based data, as well as email.
Plan for Succession
You can't operate a business, no matter how big or small, if you don't have great individuals ready to fill critical roles when the existing ones depart. Even the most successful companies can fall over a cliff if they lack a strong succession strategy. The general objective of succession planning is to guarantee that an organization can always fill a needed job with qualified workers by increasing the availability of skilled individuals for important roles in the company, often known as "bench strength."
A planned retirement is a fantastic example of when you'll know well in advance whether a hard-to-replace team member will depart the organization. Other times, an abrupt and perhaps unsettling staff leave will catch you off guard. That's why you need to make a strategy right now. Some reasons for engaging in a succession plan can include retaining tribal knowledge, assessing skill gaps and training requirements, and investing in employees to increase morale and retention.
In any case, having a succession plan in place will make your company disaster-proof at all times. Its goal is to assist your firm in growing with purpose while identifying and preparing for potential weaknesses in other business areas. Other advantages of succession planning include assisting with determining which areas require innovation, defining realistic development targets, and anticipating future talent demands.
Your department doesn't have to scramble and suffer when team members leave. It's possible to prepare for the worst by thinking ahead and putting best practices in place.
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