What is your business’s key person loss contingency plan? Many companies find themselves in trouble when a certain employee retires, quits, or leaves the company for some reason or another. This is because that particular employee knew things about the organization that no one else knew. When they left, the company no longer had that knowledge available and the person who used to do the work left the other employees scrambling to figure out how things were done. Knowledge management is about protecting your intellectual property and companies have to understand that even this has a strategy.
Many companies do not have a knowledge management strategy, even more do not know that they need a strategy. The key to a successful knowledge management strategy is alignment to the customer. This alignment will ensure that key customer related services will be documented first, as along as the customer is not affected the business can weather the storm.
There are many things a company can do to preserve the knowledge that its employees have so that other employees can pick that knowledge up where it was left off.
1. Create Detailed Job Descriptions- Make sure each employee has a detailed job description with all of the items for which they are responsible for listed. Each of these items should be described. Every year, ask the employee to go over the list and add anything they have also been taking care of within the company.
2. Create Job Overlap- No one employee should ever be the only one to know everything about a specific procedure. People get sick, take vacations, and leave jobs all of the time. Have each employee train one or more people on their specific tasks so they can cover for them when they are out of the office. This will also help preserve the knowledge in the long run.
3. Written Details- If an employee is planning to leave and the split is amicable, it is easy to ask the employee to spend their last week of work simply writing down detailed instructions on everything they do. This will make the person who takes over the job enter into the position with much more ease. The managers can take a look at the tasks at hand, reassign as necessary, eliminate, or even add duties. But overall, the most important aspect is that the knowledge of how things were currently being done has not been lost.
4. Establish Procedures- If there are certain ways that a manager likes things done, each employee should be trained through a program to do things in that manner. If that employee later finds a better way, he should be instructed to talk with the manager about the new method. The manager can incorporate that into the program and share it with the rest of the staff. The entire staff will understand how the overall program runs and that means less knowledge is likely to be lost over time.
Companies can be seriously hurt when employees with lots of knowledge choose to leave their organization. And unfortunately, many of these companies don’t recognize the gravity of the loss until it is too late. By following a few simple guidelines and the right alignment strategy, companies can preserve the knowledge their employees have and pass that knowledge down over the years in order to keep productivity levels up in the event of a key person loss.
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David G. Peterson is a business consultant and author of Handling the Remedy. He has extensive international experience managing projects and operations for large financial institutions. He has worked in North America, Europe, Middle East and Asia skillfully managing business and technical requirements, core systems enhancement and support, merger and acquisition integration's, business process reengineering, off-shoring and outsourcing.