Does your small business have a backup plan? I’m not talking about backing up your computer data or creating a disaster plan (though both of these are essential). No, I’m talking about a backup plan for what should happen if one of your key employees should suddenly quit. If you have a backup plan in place, you’ve developed internal talent that can step in and quickly fill the position so your business keeps running smoothly. If you don’t… it could take weeks, or even months, of searching to find a qualified replacement while your business suffers.
So how can you develop an employee backup plan? As someone with lots of experience in this area, here’s what worked for me.
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- Be aware. I’ve learned the hard way that even employees who seem like satisfied “lifers” can unexpectedly pick up and leave due to personal changes, health issues or the proverbial greener pastures. If you keep your eyes and ears open and engage with your employees, you’ll be better able to spot the signs that someone is considering jumping ship.
- Plan for the worst. Think several steps ahead so you always know what you could do if someone you rely on left. Review your org chart regularly and consider who could fill what role. During reviews, talk to employees about where they see their futures in the company. If you have roles without a second-string possibility, make a plan for grooming people to fill them.
- Provide training. Cross-training employees to handle each other’s jobs pays off whether or not key employees leave. Cross-trained employees gain new skills, making them happier and more engaged with their jobs. Cross-training also benefits your business because if someone goes on vacation, is out for maternity/paternity leave or calls in sick, you have someone who can pick up the slack.
- Make it a practice to promote from within. Employees who don’t see any opportunity for advancement at their current jobs look elsewhere for alternatives. But when employees know you regularly promote from within, they’ll focus within your business, think ahead to what jobs they might like to have there, and watch and learn from those employees to start cultivating the necessary skills.
- Reward results. Even if you can’t offer big promotions, reward employees for achievements like surpassing goals or learning new skills. This makes them feel they’re advancing on the job and increases loyalty—so you’ll be more likely to have your “backup team” in place when you need it.