As your company grows, you will (or you should) give some important responsibilities to others. You may have to rely on someone else to accomplish mission-critical tasks. This is especially true if the job they do is created by the employee or is in an area outside your comfort zone. Sometimes an employee will become "indispensable" in your mind.
The unavoidable fact is that one day that employee will move on to another job. How you handle the loss, and guard against it happening again, is an important part of your leadership mission. Here are 5 things to keep in mind when that day comes:
1. It's Not the End of World
Companies survive this all the time, and the work will get done. I am not saying it won't be painful, but sometimes in that pain, tasks are evaluated and even improved. As others step in to learn the work, they provide a new perspective on how the work can be accomplished. Take advantage of this unique situation to rethink the job and be open to new approaches.
2. It's Your Job to Reassure Others
Once you have reminded yourself of No. 1, you need to tell others that everything will be fine. They will look to you for leadership. If you think it's a gut check to the organization, they will follow suit. Even if you are sweating it on the inside, you need to present a calm, cool exterior and focus the organization on moving forward.
This reassurance may also need to include your customers if the employee was customer facing. Be sure that you manage the communication to your customer: Don't let the employee do so. Work with the departing employee to establish how the message will be shared and how customers will be advised of whom to contact instead.
3. Don't Put Yourself in the Situation Again
If the exit of one employee is going to be so detrimental and upsetting to your business, you need to go back to square one and figure out how to prevent it from happening again. Just as you should be documenting what and how you do your job so that others can pick it up and let you focus on other more important aspects, your employees should do the same thing.
A good idea for guarding against this situation is to purposefully cross-train employees on other jobs. This helps them to both understand how other jobs impact their work and it provides insight into what needs to be documented.
4. Figure Out Why It Happened
Once an employee has decided to leave for another job, there is very little, if anything you can do to change their mind--including a pay raise or perks. Getting to the root cause of why they decided to leave is important. You may have to get the real answer by allowing the employee to talk to someone else. See if there is something you can address in your organization that could prevent this from happening in the future. Understand that as a company grows, it requires different types of employees and leaders to attain new levels, and employee turnover is a natural part of the growth process.
5. Work Your Network
As a leader, you should always be hiring. Networking events and business connections are not just about getting new business, they are also about finding great talent for your company as it grows or other changes happen. You should already have someone in your mind from your network that would be a potential hire for the position. Most employees only give a two-week notice, which is really not enough time to find a good, qualified candidate. If you are "always hiring" you will be in a better position than someone starting from scratch.