As we’ve said here before, there are two keys to developing an outstanding workforce. First, you have to get the right people on the bus. That is, you have to hire people who have the right attitudes, behaviors, and values to fit well within your organization. As the bus driver, you can’t let just anybody onto your bus. You have to admit only those who will get along well with the people already on the bus. Second, you have to get them seated in the right seat (job). Ideally, you put them in a job for which they have both talent and passion. Right bus, right seat. Makes sense, doesn’t it? So why do we have so many wrong bus/wrong seat people running around? Probably because we don’t have an employee disaster plan in place. For more on this, please read below.
What is your employee disaster plan?
If you’ve got wrong bus/wrong seat people on board, it’s possible you have a flawed hiring process that fails to separate the people you want on your bus from those you don’t. But it’s far more likely that you allowed some wrong bus/wrong seat people to come aboard because you were desperate to fill their positions. You probably wanted to take the time to find Mr. or Ms. Right, but time was the one thing you didn’t have. Therefore, what’s needed here is an employee disaster plan to give you some breathing room so you don’t feel compelled to hire the first person who walks through your door and can fog a mirror.
Any unexpected vacancy can be disruptive. If a particular job wasn’t necessary, you wouldn’t have hired someone to do it, right? But when a key player leaves your organization, the disruption can be severe. So the first step in your employee disaster plan is to identify those people who, if they handed in their two-week notice tomorrow, would really create a disastrous situation. If your company is large enough, you may have some redundancy built into your system where the key players have a number two guy who is just waiting for a shot at the top spot. But smaller companies can rarely afford such a deep talent pool. So what’s a small company to do?
First, make a commitment to yourself that you will hold out for the right bus/right seat person, however long it takes. Building and maintaining the right team is a long-term commitment, so don’t let a short-term emergency derail it. How you do that will vary from position to position. These days there are temp services for just about everything, so if you believe that could be your stop gap measure for a particular position, do the research now to figure out what temp services provide the sort of people you would need. Or maybe you figure out a way to break up the job and ask others in your organization to share the load until you can find a permanent replacement. Or if it’s within your own skill set, maybe you step into the job yourself until a replacement can be found. And there are probably a dozen other solutions you can think of that would work temporarily to buy you some time to conduct a thorough, thoughtful search for Mr. or Ms. Right.
I’m not suggesting that an employee disaster plan will allow you take the loss of a key employee without missing a beat. On the contrary, the ways you plan to manage through a key vacancy will be messy, disruptive, and in some cases, expensive, but at least will will have a plan and it will buy you the time you need. And as messy disruptive, and expensive as your plan may be, it won’t be nearly as messy, disruptive, and expensive as it will be if you panic and allow Mr. or Ms. Wrong board your bus. If a job is too important to be left vacant for awhile, then clearly it’s too important to be given to the wrong person.