Employee management – when a key person leaves

If a key employee leaves or becomes ill, will your business suffer or fail? Here’s how to avoid the problem.

How much stress is your staff under because there is no one who can fulfill their function if they were to go on holiday or to be ill?

What contingency plans do you have in place for dealing with the sudden disappearance of one of your key players?

Do you actively plan to ensure that there are always people who have the expertise and training to undertake all the functions in your department or organization in the event of someone leaving for promotion or ill health?

What would be the net result of your leaving – in the short, medium and long term?


If your business success is dependent on key personnel who have very specialist skills or who are crucial because they pick up all the slack, you leave the individual involved and organization extremely vulnerable.

Take some time to look at the organizational structure and consider the impact of one or more players being taken out of the equation.

Are key functions left vulnerable?

How quickly could you train others internally to undertake the role? Would you have to look outside the organization? How long would that take? What are the likely costs not only to appoint someone new but in lost opportunities or revenue?

What happens now if someone is off sick or on holiday? Is your business left treading water? Or does someone’s absence put further pressure and stress on others who are trying to do their own full time job and cover someone else?

What is the impact on your client base? Do you expect them to wait longer or to receive a reduced service? In today’s incredibly competitive market it is all too easy to lose clients who are disaffected or dissatisfied. They rarely return even when full service resumes.

You may argue that you cannot afford more staff and that may be true. Perhaps looking creatively at the staff you do have, involving the staff in having a look at what is currently happening and unpicking what activities are essential and those “busy” activities which slurp up time but don’t actually impact on your department or organizations success.

Do you ensure that the calls on your staff’s personal time are appropriate? Do they take their full holiday entitlement? Are they working far longer than their contractual hours and if so how much of your organizational success is based on the good will and unpaid working hours of your staff?

What do you do if you find out a member of staff is taking their lap top on holiday with them in order to keep in touch with work?

Do you applaud their commitment particularly as you do it yourself?

Do you question whether the culture of your organization is right?

Do you take active steps to help your staff have good work life balance?

In the short term ignoring these issues may feel like it is productive, but in the long term, the costs in staff absence due to ill health or stress. The cost of appointing, training new staff and in lost momentum and revenue whilst you replace and train someone new. The personal cost on you and your managers in stress and sleepless nights whilst you deal with problems created in loosing your key players can be great.

The solution lies in strategic planning, succession planning and creating a culture which supports creating a balance between working and protecting personal time.

Gina Gardiner is one of the UK’s leading leadership coaches. She specializes in developing leadership potential from emergent to senior management level. She has a particular interest in work life balance. Visit her on the web at www.recoveringworkaholics.com or www.graduatesolutions.co.uk.

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