Are You Prepared for a Key Employee to Leave Your Company?

If you’ve been in business for more than a day, you can probably relate to this scenario…

The week is off to a great start, you’ve kicked off a new project, and everything looks like it is running on time. Then, without warning a key employee hands in their notice. The week comes to a screeching halt as you scramble to figure out a game plan.

Besides feeling the loss of a critical member of your team, you have dozens of meetings, key accounts and major projects hinging on their involvement, knowledge, and expertise. Not to mention, no one else in the company is prepared to step in quickly to take on their work while you hire a replacement.

In these moments, any business owner can feel the weight of the realization that preparatory measures should have been taken to plan for this day.  This is especially true in the construction industry, where acquiring and retaining top talent across a variety of in-demand skilled trades is becoming increasingly difficult due to an aging workforce, and fewer and fewer young professionals taking up skilled trades.

Read on for four tips to move you closer to a long-term strategy that will help you smooth out these bumps in your workforce.

Want to know more about the future of the construction industry, construction careers and construction technology? Subscribe to our Ground Up News Wire Blog!


Step 1: Develop a Process for Documenting Employee Knowledge

It is essential to have a key employees’ job function, day-to-day responsibilities, processes, and critical files documented in an easy-to-access location. Why? Because it’s good business to know how your business operates on a daily basis and be able to access those resources quickly.

If you don’t already have this information documented, here are some tips for developing a process to record employee knowledge:

#1: Create an employee knowledge transfer template.

This template should outline essential details related to each employee’s job description, day-to-day responsibilities, direct reports and main points of contact.

#2: Ensure the template is completed by every employee

Have each employee (at minimum your critical team members) complete the knowledge transfer document and provide access to management. Ideally, this document would include a short audio or text file explaining the information.

#3: Review it (and update it) often

Establish a regular cadence (e.g., quarterly or bi-annually) for team members to review and revise their knowledge transfer document to ensure it remains up to date.

Step #2: Identify Internal Team Members for Interim Support

Each employee is unique and, in many cases, (especially for key team members) owns a specific piece of the puzzle in a given project. To support your staffing contingency plan, identify a role buddy and conduct cross-training or knowledge share between those team members.

Tips for identifying interim support personnel:

  1. Review and identify job functions across your team that are closely related within your organization. Foster communication between these team members.
  2. Once each employee completes their knowledge share document, have team members sit down to walk through the plan together and discuss any questions that arise during that review.
  3. Complete any additional cross-training or knowledge share needed to ensure job roles and responsibilities could be assumed by the supporting team member if required.

A system of cross-training will ensure that someone on your team understands what another key employee does, even if it is only at a basic level to support a project during a time of employee transition or turn over.

Step #3: Create a Hiring Plan for Replacement of a Key Employee

Every company should have an up-to-date list of job roles and associated descriptions for critical positions within the organization. During the knowledge transfer documentation process, ensure these descriptions are reviewed and updated to reflect current team member roles and responsibilities.

When establishing a hiring plan, consider the following:

  1. Ensure that job titles, descriptions and compensation details are up-to-date.  Monitoring hiring trends in the ever-changing construction industry can be helpful. 
  2. How will you conduct ongoing networking and talent pipeline development?  Will you do this with job fairs, local Chamber of Commerce meetings, or other mixer events?  Why wait? Start building your workforce today. 
  3. Develop a plan for onboarding new hires that includes the details gathered in the knowledge transfer documents and training with the interim replacement.
  4. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review suggests that by engaging an out-going employee in a meaningful conversation (not an interrogation!), you can identify why they were looking elsewhere and what you can do to remedy this situation going forward to make your company an attractive place to work.

Step #4 – Succession Planning

In a 2016-2017 survey, global staffing firm Manpower Group reported that vacancies in the skilled trades are the most difficult positions to fill in the country.

With this kind of pressure to recruit and retain talent in your industry, succession planning is not just something you talk about in meetings or read about in blog posts.  It must be given priority if you are to remain competitive in the marketplace.

It is important to note that succession planning differs from replacement planning.  In replacement planning, you are at the mercy of unexpected events. “Planning” in this way is used to identify people that can “plug a hole” or fill an immediate need.

In contrast, succession planning is a strategy that helps you plan for upcoming vacancies by recruiting, hiring, and training with future leadership in mind. Successful succession planning relies on long-term vision and a commitment to an environment where workers prepare themselves to qualify for more responsibility, in all parts of your organization.

In conclusion

It’s never a fun situation when a key employee leaves your company. However, with some proper planning, you can foster an environment where crucial company knowledge is transmitted from tenured members to new employees without skipping a beat or grinding operations to a halt.

Do you have any best practices you follow for hiring?
Please share your thoughts with us below, and don’t forget to
subscribe to the blog to stay up to date!


Josh Munns
Joshua Munns grew up in the construction industry differently than most, his Mom, Mary Davis, started a window company as a single mom when he was just 4 years old in 1983. Having a mom who was starting a business in the construction industry at only 23 years old made for some very interesting days. Fast forward 24 years to 2007 I took over the family business just in time for the Recession which hit my business extremely hard. I spent the next 11 years rebuilding the business, rebuilding my workforce and completely reshaping the company. In 2018 I sold the business to focus my energy on my passion, building careers in construction. In 2018 I founded Ground Up Careers to help business owners and employees build careers together. The career does not exist with the employer and the employer does not exist without the career. When employees and employers work together the end result is amazing. By building a strong company culture, offering great benefits and career paths for my employees I was able to build the business back stronger than ever. I did it and I want to help other owners take that step to take their business to the next level. It is an amazing feeling and a great privilege to be able to provide people with great careers.

Leave a Reply