Businesses fail or succeed because of their talent. But what do you do when your star employee chooses to leave?
That standout professional can seem irreplaceable, especially in the immediate aftermath, but there are ways you can prepare for their departure and ensure that any skills gap is minimized as much as possible.
Here are four tips for replacing irreplaceable talent in your organization:
1. Implement a succession strategy
Succession planning can be a complicated process that is dependent on a number of different factors, such as how many employees you have and what skill sets each team member has. However, it's a valuable practice that can make a massive impact on your organization in the situation where one of your most talented professionals leaves the business.
It's not just about departures either. Succession planning can help teams cope with unplanned absences, such as sickness or bereavement leave, as well as holidays or parental leave. Having a plan in place to identify ways individual teams can deal with any single employee being unable to work will help your company become more flexible and adaptable.
Succession strategies should focus on which employees would need to step up, what training would be necessary, which teams would need the most support, and an action plan to safeguard against any other high-risk areas.
2. Encourage skill sharing between employees
Ensuring that skills are spread out as far as possible across your team is the best way to prevent any real damage being done to your company should one or even a handful of your star professionals leave. This normally involves developing your team's capacity to make it much more flexible and able to adapt to fluctuating work demands.
Cross-training can be described as trying to make employees more T-shaped rather than I-shaped. I-shaped professionals typically have one area of expertise and are lacking in most other areas, in comparison T-shaped employees still have a single discipline where they are most skilled but also have a working understanding of others. This means that, should any one employee be off sick or leave, the skill set across the rest of the team can support the knowledge gap.
3. Identify the talent you need
When a key part of your team leaves, it's natural to panic about how on earth you'll find another candidate who brings all the same skills to the company. But they don't necessarily have to. The qualities you valued in your most prized employees may not actually represent the direction the company plans to head in the future. The last thing you want to do is start a desperate search for a cookie-cutter replacement if you don't really need it.
Instead, sit down and talk to their team, directors, and management to identify what skills are needed. It should also be an opportunity to upskill other employees if they want to develop in any of the necessary areas. This will give you a much better idea of what sort of candidate you need to recruit, and what your immediate needs will be as a team and a business.
4. Plan for the future
The key to implementing either cross-training or succession plans is to be proactive. For example, you should regularly facilitate employee training to ensure they have the opportunity to gain a variety of skills. Managers can be an integral part of this, allowing decision makers to understand and identify which professionals are strong leaders, and which individuals would need the most support to grow their skill set.
When devising an action plan, you should set yourself deadlines and assign tasks to specific people to ensure that your objectives are achieved, and not left as long-term targets. This will help you be proactive about filling any gaps identified as part of your succession plan and ensure there is no dramatic shortfall in the instance that a valuable employee leaves.