Just like death and taxes, employee turnover is a fact of life. Every company experiences it at some level. Some companies even live in fear of losing one of their star performers. They become beholden to employees because they are so anxious not to lose them.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a strong believer in treating your people well, but you also have to hold employees accountable for their performance. If someone is not performing well and/or is disruptive to the team, you should not be hesitant to fire them just because there is no one else who can do their job. That’s a situation you should never allow to develop.
As a manager, how do you avoid such a predicament? By building in redundancies. No one should be the only person who can complete a job. You should be cross training whenever possible. Each role should have clearly written instructions on how work is done. And each employee should document any critical information or expertise so it can be easily shared. This way, if an employee wins the lottery and quits tomorrow, your entire operation will not come to a screeching halt.
Some employees may feel threatened by this approach; they’ll worry that you’re planning to replace them. Simply explain that you are preparing for the “what ifs.” Be sure to include every employee in the process and give them time to ask questions and make suggestions. Ask each employee which roles they would like to learn more about and let them choose, to the extent possible, in what areas they’d like to cross train. This way you’ll not only get better buy in for the process but also more complete and reliable documentation of each role.
Cross training is much easier in a smaller company where everyone is already familiar with most of the work. In a larger company, you have to be intentional and proactive about cross training. It will eventually pay off. Even if only one person leaves each year, cross training will inevitably save you time and money by allowing you to maintain productivity while simultaneously searching for a replacement.
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