Management Matters

How To Retain Key Employees

Date Posted: 12/10/2015

In any organization a lot of effort goes into juggling personnel to fit the right people into respective positions according to their unique skills and capabilities. When key staff deliver as per their designated roles we tend to increasingly become so totally dependent upon them that we cannot conceive of any disruptive situation that may arise. Is this complacence safe if you do not anticipate or pre-empt a scenario of key staff whom you rely on heavily suddenly leave for different reasons? What if we are confronted with a vacuum created by the resignation of a key employee without having a rescue plan? Do we know how to control the situation quickly and continue functioning normally?

Sudden loss of key employees is a problem for every organization, usually because we are unprepared.. Our irrational belief that nobody is indispensible is not true at all, at least not in the short term. This is usually because we refuse to accept it happening to us, and therefore ignore putting in place preventive steps in time.

Let us consider some measures to handle the situations of unexpected loss of a key employee for any reason whatsoever:

  1. Ready yourself. Prepare in advance to lose key employees by developing a fall-back plan. This is vital to absorb the shock of the vacuum created by any sudden exit of key personnel. Without such a plan your risk is not only of irritated clients and customers but a total breakdown of the work process.
  2. Document the role. Always maintain an up-to-date detailed key role description and documents available to enable smooth transfer and continuity of the role without disruption. Keep a reference list of past and current tasks of each key employee. Maintain a daily log of every task taken up, executed and pending. However, for security reasons, all such information or data, past and current, should be inaccessible and indestructible to secure it from mischievous intent like copy and/or deletion. These should be accessible only to selected/nominated personnel and retrievable to the extent required.
  3. Have an understudy in place. Train other appropriate key personnel to multi-function to keep alternatives open in case of sudden need. This will also avoid giving any leverage to a key staff member who may feel indispensable and therefore difficult to replace. This way you may even get the vacuum filled without any replacement and save costs.
  4. Keep hiring replacement a ready option. Realize that stop gap measures will only be temporary and you may have to recruit trained personnel. Therefore maintain a panel of suitable pre-approved candidates who you did not hire earlier but who could fit the bill in case of an emergency. If you need to start the recruitment process from scratch it may take forever while you suffer from systemic slowdown or disruptions due to absence of trained staff.
  5. Investigate root cause of the exit. Other than pay scales, interpersonal disputes with immediate managers or colleagues are common reasons for talent migrations. Therefore as a part of progressive HR policy you need to know why the key staff is leaving and whether the manager is directly or indirectly responsible. If this is so, appropriate counseling of both the senior and junior staff members may be adopted for reconciliation to retain qualified key staff, even if interim change of department is involved.
  6. Try to retain the deserter. If a key employee is leaving for genuine personal reasons, or for a change of career, there is little you can do. But if it’s for a better job with improved terms offered by a competitor, you should always persuade a change of mind to hold back the valuable asset. Put a price on the loss of an employee and you will realize that losing this key person will cost you dearly. This does not even consider the implications of knowledge leakage that may entail a confidentiality hazard to your organization
  7. Energize the job. Talented personnel suffer from easy dissatisfaction if their jobs lack adequate incentive. As this psychological state may lead to resignation, , effort should be made to create an intellectually commensurate environment for key talented staff so that they find satisfaction in their work. The ideal job role content for specialized and/or talented staff should be a mix of operational focus and external exposure to add the element of variety and interest.
  8. Match candidate: organization psyche before hiring. It takes a lot of resources and time to identify good recruits and current personality profiling practices add to correct hiring decisions. Thus, reducing employee turnover saves the organization substantial expenditure. Fitting a candidate into the company’s work culture and values is critical to retain them in the long term.

In other words, please do initiate steps to protect yourself from the indispensability of key personnel in every way possible, and in all haste. Create the suggested open-function processes with interchanging roles and continuous re-training of staff in multi-functional operations which enables flexibility and interchange when required. Only this can effectively guard you from unforeseen key employee departures, give you freedom from over- dependence on any individual, and perhaps even prevent the concerned manager’s own sudden exit for failure to anticipate and prepare for this eventuality.

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