Maintaining “business as usual” after a major disruption in your organization is a challenge.
These disruptions aren’t in your project or yearly portfolio plan. Nor have you aligned resources to overcome.
Disruptions may result from a variety of events. Natural disasters, enterprise technology failures, cyberattacks are a few common ones that come to mind.
But, losing a key resource in your organization – along with their depth of critical system knowledge – is also a significant disruption to the way business is conducted. And this scenario may be more common and struggled with than any of the other potential disturbances to the balance of your organization.
A business continuity plan will help you overcome disruptions that your organizations will face. But, does your business continuity plan include employee departure?
What is business continuity?
The term business continuity refers to how your organization maintains business functions in the event of a disruption. Power outages, natural disasters, cyberattacks and other events that affect your enterprise are common culprits.
But, business continuity also refers to maintaining business functions during smaller scale disruptions. Employee departures may not seem as scary as a cyberattack, but their impact on business functions can be monumental.
Why business continuity is important
Unless you’re a soothsayer, there are going to be disruptions to your organization that you simply won’t see coming. Disruptions that you can’t prepare for.
Or, can you prepare for them?
Well, the answer is yes. In fact, being unprepared is the last thing that you should let happen. Resulting in downtime for the business functions you support.
Picture this… One of your most experienced Business Analysts comes in tomorrow with their 2-week departure notice in hand. This BA has owned your organization’s system of record since it was implemented over 7 years ago.
Will you maintain business as usual when that employee leaves in 10 business days? If the answer is no, then you need to create a business continuity plan. Keep reading to find out how to create a business continuity plan for employee departure.
How to Maintain Business Continuity During Employee Departure
You aren’t just losing a resource when an employee is exiting. You’re also losing their existing knowledge, experience, and informed ideas.
But, with swift and calculated actions, you can create a smooth transition. Business continuity is the goal in any employee exit. And you should treat this employee departure as any other project your organization is executing at a given time.
Here are the steps you need to take to reach that goal and maintain business as usual.
Step 1: Replacement Identification and Onboarding
The type of resource you choose to replace your departing employee will differ based on your situation.
Internally distributing responsibilities will be the quickest way to transition and distribute knowledge. But, there are obvious cons such as overloading current employees.
The hiring process can be lengthy for an external employee. Likely, your newly hired employee won’t have much, if any, overlap with your departing resource.
If this is your situation, we suggest identifying an existing resource in your organization who can lead the steps in this transition plan. Once your new employee is onboarded, you should have a base of knowledge and documentation to hand off to them.
This isn’t going to be a guide on hiring the right employee. If you’re looking for some details on how to hire the best, here are some tips.
But, you do need to identify a replacement resource. The quicker you can do this the better.
Step 2: Knowledge Transfer
Knowledge transfer is the method of capturing responsibilities, ideas, skills and personal knowledge from one or more individuals and sharing between one or more other individuals within an organization.
“Knowledge” isn’t just what is in a person’s head. It’s also what they do. Including, the activities and responsibilities they perform in order to meet operational objectives.
This step is so vital to maintain business continuity during an employee departure that we wrote an entire article on it: Knowledge Transfer: An Approach for Executing it Effectively.
The knowledge transfer process is as follows:
- Develop a knowledge transfer topic plan
- Hold knowledge transfer sessions
- Document and distribute knowledge
The goal of this knowledge transfer step is to transform individual knowledge into shared organizational knowledge. So, even though you’re losing a resource, you’re not losing the individual knowledge stored in their head.
Move on to the next step to learn how to deliver and distribute shared knowledge.
Step 3: Shared Knowledge Deliverable Creation
As you work through knowledge transfer and executing your business continuity plan, you need to keep in mind the deliverables that are needed for your organization to continue business as usual. A shared knowledge base – filled with the information gained throughout the knowledge transfer process – should be the primary deliverable on your list.
Think of this knowledge base as a one-stop shop for everything related to systems and/or processes owned by your departing employee. Anyone in your organization should be able to access the knowledge base after your departing employee’s final day and carry out one of the tasks they used to perform.
If you would like to learn more about deliverable creation, we talk more about it in the Knowledge Transfer: An Approach for Executing it Effectively article.
Last, but not least, it’s important that you engage the rest of the organization.
Step 4: Operational Team Engagement
Your experienced, knowledgeable departing employee really knew how to give business users that fuzzy feeling of comfort when working through system issues. They knew if an issue arose, it would be resolved quickly.
Now that their favorite technical support is departing, you’ll need to spend some time and effort getting your business organization comfortable with the transition.
Depending on your organization and the phase at which your employee is departing, one approach that we have found works well is the re-kickoff method.
The situation has changed. And it’s time to level set with your business organization.
The re-kickoff method allows you to re-initiate a project and/or application support. You can treat your employee departure as an opportunity to review the project/system charter, current status, project stakeholders, and communication with your business team.
In addition, use this opportunity to communicate the transition plan and upcoming objectives for the project as a whole. If feasible, show off your newly created knowledge base. This will show that knowledge has not been lost with your departing employee. And it will increase trust in the transition.
You can execute this method through a simple re-kick off meeting with your business organization to review project / system:
- Current status
- Stakeholders and roles/responsibilities
- Communication plan
- Knowledge Base
- Upcoming objectives and the transition plan
Replacement Employee Engagement
In addition to re-kickoff the project as a whole, it’s important for your replacement employee to increase communication with your operational business team.
Whether it’s 1-on-1 meetings with the business leads or small team discussions, your replacement employee needs to initiate an open line of communication. Understanding how your business users interact with the technology, what concerns/questions they have about the transition, and how they can report issues will go a long way in building trust.
Case Study: Maintaining Business Continuity During Business Analyst Departure
A business analyst / project manager for a public sector organization’s system of record is departing in two weeks. They have served as the system owner since it was implemented over 7 years ago. They have a breadth of technical and programmatic knowledge.
Although they are not fully rolling off of the project for two weeks, their time is limited since they have rolled onto another project. The organization has been allotted 1 hour each day over the next two weeks for knowledge transfer.
In addition, the system that they owned is developed by a vendor, so internal technical knowledge is limited.
Step 1: Replacement Identification and Onboarding
The organization was able to leverage their close relationship with Karma Advisory to quickly onboard a replacement who was already part of their firm.
This individual had experience working on similar systems in a public sector environment. They were able to utilize this experience to quickly onboard, build and execute the employee transition plan, and manage the knowledge transfer process.
Step 2 and 3: Knowledge Transfer and Deliverable Creation
Knowledge transfer sessions were used to capture the responsibilities, system knowledge, and processes of the departing employee.
First, a topic coverage tracker was created and managed all the topics that were to be covered during the knowledge transfer sessions. The topics in the tracker were prioritized and updated as each were covered. In addition, the location of any notes and/or screen recordings were documented in the tracker.
As part of the knowledge transfer sessions – 1-hour sessions for 2 weeks – meeting notes and screen recordings were used to document the details about each of the covered topics. These were stored in an accessible shared folder location.
The meeting notes, recordings and topic tracker were then used to build out a system knowledge base. Microsoft OneNote was utilized to detail recurring operational processes with screenshots, the steps to complete key system tasks, technical architecture, and other general information about the system that the employee owned. The knowledge base was saved to a SharePoint location and made accessible to the rest of the organization.
Step 4: Operational Team Engagement
The organization utilized a re-kickoff approach to engage the business teams that depended on the system. A separate kickoff meeting was held for each of the main business teams to review current project status, key stakeholders, roles and responsibilities, and next steps in the project plan.
To further gain trust with the business teams, the replacement employee held individual meetings with the business leads to capture how they use the system, what questions or concerns they have about the transition, and what they can expect in terms of communication moving forward.
Do You Have a Key Employee Departing?
Losing an employee is never easy. On top of that, maintaining business continuity during their departure is even more challenging.
But, now you have the process to overcome this disruption to your organization. It’s now a matter of executing it to support your business functions. Remember, business as usual means, well, business as usual. No frantic emails, unmet deadlines, or heightened stress levels.
Do you need help maintaining business continuity? Don’t worry, we’ve been there before. And we’d love to help. Reach out to Karma Advisory by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a Conversation on Business Continuity, Check Out the Karma Insights Podcast
Also published on Medium.