Are You Losing A Key Employee?

Written by on March 23, 2015 in Process Management with 0 Comments

Choices imageIt happened again to a client.  A key project manager gave his two weeks notice that he would be leaving for a new opportunity in a different organization.  It could just as easily been someone who is retiring and you just realized she is leaving in two weeks.  Or, it could be that an employee was called up to active duty.  All of these scenarios have occurred recently for my clients…how about you?

After the initial moment of panic passes, what should you do to make sure your business and YOUR clients and customers are not negatively impacted?  Here are some suggestions to help you get through the first few weeks.

Identify an Interim Replacement

Two weeks (or even a month) is not enough time to hire and train a new employee to replace the outgoing one.  It’s important to identify someone within your organization who can pick up the slack and be the new face for your current clients.  This can be difficult, especially if you are a small organization or department.  Adding to an employee’s workload, even if it’s only temporary, can be disruptive and stressful.  However, you don’t want to surprise a client with a change in personnel without some advance notice.  Change is difficult and you need to prepare your staff and your clients well in advance.

Evaluate Priorities

Take a look at your current priorities and initiatives.  You may need to put some plans on hold until you can replace the leaving employee.  This is also true for everyone in the organization who may be tasked with taking on additional work during the transition.  If others are going to take on the work of the leaving employee, it is important to re-prioritize their responsibilities as well.  You don’t want to overwhelm your staff.  Reduce the non-critical activities until you can bring the new person on-board and up-to-speed.

Capture Key Processes

Most people have a vague idea about what others in the organization do on a day-to-day basis.  But the details are often missing.  It’s important to capture key processes and activities so your business does not suffer.  This is where I am often called in to help.  Most organization don’t do a good job of documenting processes and procedures.  The excuse is there is just not enough time to do it.  Or the employees don’t know how to document processes.  And of course, the processes must be kept up-to-date.  Here are some of the steps I recommend to my clients.

  1. Over the course of a week (or month), make a list of all of the activities that you perform.  This is the high-level list of procedures that should be documented.
  2. Locate all of the critical spreadsheets, documents, and files and make a list.  This is a good opportunity to gather the data into a central location and to discard old, outdated documents.  I suggest creating a spreadsheet with the name of the file, the location, who else needs the files, and the last update.  Add a final column for interim responsibility to ensure you have assigned all updates to a specific person in the organization.
  3. Prioritize the list of activities and identify the most logical person to assume interim responsibility for each.

Document Your Process

Your first inclination is to have the leaving employee do everything to get ready to leave.  This is a mistake.  You need to begin documenting processes and training the interim staff immediately.  Using the list of priorities and interim assignments, begin working from high to low.  You may not get everything documented, but at least you will know what you don’t know.  There are many ways to document a process, but this method works great, even if you don’t have an interim employee available.

For every process:

  1. Create a workflow diagram of the steps needed to complete the activity.  This is at a high level and can become a checklist.
  2. Create a video of the person working through the process.  If the process is something that is completed using a computer, use your meeting software and record everything that is done.  I use GoToMeeting and have all parties call in to the phone number.  Record the training session.  This captures both the image on screen and the explanations as they are described.  If it is something that is not completed by computer, you can use an iPad or iPhone and record the session as a video.
  3. Once you have a video, you can transcribe the audio as a first draft.  I use a service such as to provide the first pass at the transcription.  I always need to clean it up but using this method reduces the time it takes to get a draft prepared.
  4. Using the transcription and the video, create a document.  I use SnagIt to capture images from the videos.  If you don’t want to go to this much trouble, name each video and put it on a shared drive for the interim and new person to review.
  5. Be sure to have someone who doesn’t know the process complete the activity using the instructions in the document or video.  Capture their questions and make changes as needed.


Having an employee leave unexpectedly can be disruptive to any organization.  It’s important to plan for these situations in advance.  Documenting your processes should be standard operating practice for any organization.

Deb Miller at Miller Productivity is available to assist you through coaching or done-for-you services.  Contact us for more information.



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