Last month in Part One of this article we examined options for keeping your own position functioning when you are unable to do so yourself. Today we'll look at some ways to insure yourself against the sudden departure of the people who work for you.

    Even the happiest and best employees eventually leave. Usually the reasons are valid, and natural career or life progressions: better opportunity for advancement, shorter commute, higher salary, trailing a spouse's job change, impending parenthood, and so on. But sometimes the reasons aren't so agreeable: termination for cause, downsizing, merger or acquisition, office relocation, personality conflicts, etc. In all cases these changes will force a transition, either to a replacement individual or spread out among the members of a now smaller, surviving staff. Whether or not you see the obvious signs of an employee getting ready to leave, whether or not you're surprised when they do leave, you'll need to face these challenges, hopefully with advance planning. Here's how.

    Whether you're allowed to replace departing staff or not, it's vital to know exactly: (1) what they're doing, (2) how they're doing it, and (3) where to find all of the supporting information and tools they use to perform their functions. In short, do you have a Responsibility Matrix for your group? When I manage departments I always have one. When I'm hired I normally interview each of my staff members right away and ask them to list their key responsibilities, while I also create a list of my own. I then unify, consolidate, and list all department functions alphabetically down the left hand column of an Excel worksheet, and list our names across the top. In the resulting new Responsibility Matrix I place in each cell a simple "P" for Primary Responsibility, a "B" for Backup, and a "2" for Second Backup. Armed with this, no matter how long anyone is out there's no scrambling to figure out who has to cover what, because backup responsibilities have already been assigned, agreed to, and trained for. And in the case of scheduling vacations, this tool also makes sure you don't have too many key personnel out at the same time, though even this problem can be solved with a bit of advance planning and extra cross-training as needed.

    There's something else to consider when someone is covering the desk of an absent co-worker: Access. Will that backup person have easy access to the missing person's emails and voicemails? Can he or she place appropriate automatic "out of office" responses in your voicemail and email systems, and effectively use Word, Excel, SAP, or other key systems? And as a last, backup resort, do your HR or IT departments have access to all of the missing person's various passwords?

    The approach above plus your answers to the embedded questions can cover short and long term absences. But what about when someone leaves? Do you have a Progressive Backfilling plan within your staff? Have you identified potential replacements outside of your staff within your company? Are you aware of any candidates outside of your company you'd like to hire? Equally important: do you know where to look for those outside candidates? Do you know how to find people by using either social networking tools like Linked-In or the resume services which professional organizations like ISM and CSCMP provide to their members? Do you have any relationships with search firms who specialize in Logistics or Supply Chain positions?

    If you have good answers to all of the questions asked in this article so far, you're close to being ready to temporarily cover and/or permanently fill staff vacancies. You even have the rudiments of a job description in the Responsibility Matrix described earlier. The final pieces you need to assemble are the required and nice-to-have qualifications for potential candidates: education level and degree; professional certification(s); minimum years of applicable business experience; familiarity with your company's ERP or similar systems; potential to succeed you when you're promoted (or fill in for you periodically as discussed last month); and others unique to your company.

    This article has probably given you more questions than answers, but that's OK, since developing the answers needed to fit your particular situation will help you to avoid, or at least mitigate, the challenges of staff turnover.


    This article is part of the monthly series authored by ISM’s Logistics & Transportation Group Board Members, who are current practitioners, consultants, and educators. In future columns, they will continue sharing their views on a number of Supply Chain topics.

    George Yarusavage, CTL, C.P.M., is a principal in Fortress Consulting, specializing in Transportation and Sourcing issues. He is also the Treasurer of ISM’s Logistics & Transportation Group and can be reached at gyarusavage@yahoo.com, or (203) 984-4957. Membership in the Group is open to all ISM members who are responsible for or have an interest in the Logistics & Transportation fields.
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