triage - 2

Have you faced losing a highly valued employee?  If not, you’re fortunate, but the odds are it will happen at some point.  Here are some questions to ask yourself:  Am I ready?  Do I know what the daily critical tasks are and who has the knowledge, ability or training to handle these?


What is your triage plan? Have you considered how vulnerable you are to having a key employee suddenly leave?  Most employees give two weeks notice, but emergencies do occur and there isn’t always the luxury of a transition period.  It’s sad to say but people have accidents, illnesses and move with little to no notification.

When you lose a key employee (often administrative and overlooked), you then learn the ‘behind the scenes’ work of which you were previously unaware. Most employees don’t share the details of their work because managers don’t want to be bothered with the details as long as the work gets done

keyIDENTIFYING TOP PERFORMERS – It isn’t that you favor one employee over another; but, you do recognize the ones you rely on more than others.  They are part of the “backbone” of your team and (depending upon the position) if you lost one of them, it might feel as though your legs were kicked out from under you.

Key Employees – Duties and Responsibilities

What is essential?  Is it billing, accounts receivable, software knowledge, procedures and processes? 

Extraordinary tasks – Do they have information in their heads but not on paper?  What about passwords and access to critical information?

PREPARATION “An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure.”

If you don’t take time to plan for the loss of key employees and the worst happens, you’ll suffer an even more painful ordeal.  Since you can’t avoid it, the smartest thing to do is prepare yourself and your organization.

Job Descriptions – at least have at least a good written job description which includes responsibilities and essential functions. As a bonus this can be the basis for recruitment in the future and used as a measuring tool for evaluating job performance.

Cross Train – Now! This helps not only when somebody leaves suddenly, but also during illnesses, vacations, and emergencies.

Groom – Survey your current employees and identify someone who can be prepared to take over at least some of the responsibilities.  (This does not have to be the person to permanently fill the position.)

Ask yourself What would I need to do to return to normal without that individual and how long would it take?”

PREVENTION – Retaining Employees

Many managers don’t value or make use of their most precious resource, their employees. When managers ignore their internal environment, they make a critical error in judgment.   Find out what is really important to them and focus on THEIR values instead of what you THINK would be important to them. 

Money–Sometimes this motivates, but not everyone is driven by financial rewards.

Vacation – Often people would appreciate more days off to be with their family over financial compensation.

Flexibility – Instead of having to use a half-day of vacation for a 1 or 2 hr doctor appointment, maybe you can just let them be out of the building for that period and make up the hours another time.

Appreciation – Believe it or not many employees are more driven by words of affirmation and appreciation than money.

Face to Face Time – It’s a busy world and our time is based on our business priorities.  But investing time in an employee by taking them to lunch and being interested in them (NOT talking ‘shop’) is a morale boost.  And you may find the results are beneficial to both of you.


    • Meet with the team and communicate the situation and needs
    • Move the “groomed” employee into place or review what critical areas they can take over in the interim.  (Remember to compensate them adequately for the additional responsibilities or you will have a disgruntled employee.)
    • Review non-critical areas of responsibilities and then share the work with the rest of the team. (Make sure you get their input AND utilize their experience.  When you genuinely “hear” your employees it improves teamwork and morale.)
    • When recruiting for the new team member consider hiring for the level of your needs in two years rather than the present.