Is Wally the Only Employee Who Can Program Your Zeberpupin?

If so, you may need a mini-succession plan.

In Dilbert this past weekend, the CEO wants to fire Wally.  Unfortunately, Wally is the only employee who can program the company’s Zeberpupin System.  What a pickle for any company to be in; where an employee who has unique skills and knowledge resigns, goes on long-term medical leave or faces termination.  Business could come to a standstill.

Small businesses face this situation frequently.  Technology as it applies to business systems and communication has become intricate and customizable.  All too often, specific positions require school education and further “on-the-job” mastery.  Employees in unique positions can end up developing unique knowledge, which can be wittingly or unwittingly hijacked from the business by a single departing employee (or contractor).  Really! Take for example the IT guy who has kept your company’s account planning system running by making his own little adjustments and fix-its to the code.  He’s just decided to dubstep his way to a career as a DJ [Ed. Note: Someone at HRInsights just recently discovered dubstep] with the information on how he made all those changes trapped in his head.

Don’t let high unemployment levels lull you into a false sense of security.  There is no quick and dirty replacement for unique knowledge.

What do you do? Have a plan B – prepare to prevent disruption.  Create a mini-succession plan.  Big organizations do this as a rule and so should small business owners.  That is, for each employee and position, have the answers to these questions:

  1. How do I find a replacement?
  2. Where do I find a replacement?
  3. How long will it take to get a replacement?
  4. Who can fill this position in an emergency?

If your company has answers to these questions, then great!  In all likelihood, however, you do not.  Begin the process and you are well on your way to keep the company up and running if any employee leaves for whatever reason.  Just a tip – review your succession plan once a year to keep it up to date.

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