I’m curious to know how your workplace manages when an employee takes annual leave, calls in sick or quits. Is it pandemonium or do you have support staff that can step in and pick up the slack? Having a plan to avoid being held hostage by employees is imperative and the answer may be in both your recruitment and training and development strategy.

It is typical for many businesses, particularly small, to function lean, but are you aware of which skills will be in short supply if any one of your employees is absent? There is a simple means to identify how your organisation will fair in such a situation. Reviewing the organisational chart, determine the responsibilities of each position. If any one employee were absent, could others perform their duties for a short period? The functions that are critical to the business are those that you need to ensure are not vulnerable to absenteeism, or worse, an expected resignation!

Popular means to managing this potential crisis is cross training and job sharing. If you cross train your staff, you can be confident of having several backups when one is unable to perform a vital task. Job sharing and rotating jobs or tasks also gives you an added option should someone have to race out of the office, find themselves sitting through a week long training course, or be sunning it up  on a beach somewhere far away. Reinforcements provide assurance and help you to avoid stressful situations that may actually lose you an important client or sale.

Does this strategy double your personnel costs or is it a justifiable economic cost? Often, over time, critical functions fall to a few staff, granting them a level of power and control they can use to bargain for a promotion or a pay rise. And guess who has granted this opportunity to them? A smart business does not rely on a single avenue of income, they diversify their sources for new customers, new products and the distribution thereof. Naturally you want the same level of diversity and stability in your staffing.

Preparing to plan for the worse could help you to identify current employees who are interested in spanning their roles within the company. Talk to your staff and ask them how they ideally see their future with the business playing out. Feed their interests and groom them to be a part of the backup team who can transition in and out of various roles. This is a great strategy for maintaining the services of employees who don’t see an opportunity for advancement within. If you can cultivate a culture where further training can lead to an internal promotion, albeit sideways or up, you will retain staff that otherwise considered they had reached the highest rung on the ladder with your company.

Relying solely on your existing staff to cover vacant roles will not always prove full proof. Perhaps a role is so specialised that you simply do not have the experience in-house. Your planning ahead strategy therefore needs to incorporate a finger on the pulse approach. Monitor social media and keep up-to-date with potential new hires. Have a position description complied and job advert at the ready, and know which avenues through which you will communicate the role to yield the best talent. Develop a relationship with the recruitment agencies in your area and have a stable of contractors who can step in to fill the gap while you commence the recruitment process. Finding the right hire could take weeks, if not months, so it is very important you have multiple strategies in play to avoid a critical loss of skill to the business.

Curve balls tend to come when we are least expecting them. And having an indispensable employee that could inflict long term harm on the company’s operations if suddenly they are no longer present is a huge business risk that one does not want to face. Losing a valued employee is crushing, but not having a plan to replace their vital skill set or knowledge can be even more detrimental to your organisation. Take a proactive stance and plan ahead. Today.

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