No matter what an employer does, the simple truth is that even the best, most highly valued employees will one day leave your organization. Hopefully, it’ll be at the end of a long and happy career with your company, after having passed on their know-how and experience. But what if it’s not?
When skilled or senior employees suddenly leave a company, whether to accept a new job elsewhere or after having been terminated, they take with them all the experience and know-how they developed at your organization, leaving behind a gap that can take quite a while to fill. A by-product of employee turnover, this effect is often referred to as a “knowledge vacuum,” and it can have serious repercussions on a company depending on how long it takes to get a current employee to fill the void or to hire an additional employee with comparable experience and knowledge.
Here are a few expert tips on how you can prevent your organization from falling victim to the knowledge vacuum.
Documented processes make for smother transitions.
How do you learn something you’ve never done before? Most people would either seek out advice from someone with experience, or try and find a helpful guide or instructions. The same logic applies to learning a job. But what if there’s no one there to show a new employee the ropes? While an expert or seasoned professional might be able to pick up some things on their own, even they would benefit from having some sort of instruction manual or guide on how their employer wants the job done. Therein lies the value of documentation.
By requiring employees to document the processes they use to complete their job duties, you can minimize the confusion that often accompanies the departure of an employee. While the employees filling in the gaps may not know everything about the functions the departing employee performed, they’ll at least have a basic idea of what they need to do to get the job done, which will leave your organization in a much better place than if they were “flying blind.”
Cross-training is key.
Only having one employee trained on how to perform an essential job function is a recipe for disaster. You aim to have backups for as many employees as possible, or at least have enough people cross-trained on how to perform essential functions that the company won’t collapse without them.
Value your people.
Don’t wait until your employees put in their notice to realize how valuable they are to your organization. The number one reason Americans give for voluntarily leaving a job is that they don’t feel they get the recognition they deserve from their employers. Make sure your employees know how much you appreciate the work they do, and not just once a year during a performance review. Small, ongoing appreciation and recognition efforts go a long way to making employees feel like a valued member of the team, and will help bolster employee retention rates.
Know your people.
An employee announcing his or her retirement is rarely a huge surprise. Employers should be aware of which employees are approaching retirement age and, as necessary and appropriate, begin thinking about how they will cope with that employee’s possible absence well before he or she becomes eligible for retirement.
Losing a star employee is sometimes unavoidable, and while it can feel like a major blow at the time, it’s certainly not the end of the world. By investing some time and effort in creating a stable infrastructure for your workforce that relies both on processes and people, you can ensure that your organization not only weathers a knowledge vacuum better, but avoids them altogether.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of The HR Gazette or its team members.