It’s every manager’s worst fear. You have this great team member – the engineer who has been around forever, who understands how everything’s designed, and who can magically fix any problem. Then one day… you receive the dreaded two weeks notice.
Maybe it’s a new job, or moving out of state, or (worse) an illness. Whatever the reason, your team is in trouble. You’re in trouble.
It turns out, this person is a single-point-of-failure in your team.
Without this key employee, who is everyone else going to rely on? Who will they turn to with questions? If there’s an outage, who’s going to fix it?
Before it’s too late
Let’s imagine for a second that this has NOT happened to you… yet. But as you think about your team, you realize that it could happen. There are people in your team who are irreplaceable. There are some tasks, or some pieces of equipment, that only they understand.
Luckily for you, it’s not too late yet. So what can you do to protect yourself from the risk of losing a key employee?
- Maintain a centralized list of IPs, usernames and passwords (ideally using a password manager like LastPass or 1Password). You really don’t want to discover that all the log-in information is stored in one person’s head.
- Maintain a brief list of responsibilities for each person on your team – which should help you spot any expertise-bottlenecks, and give you a checklist for what information needs to be covered during those last two weeks.
- Make sure all regularly-performed tasks are documented somewhere. You might keep a shared Google Doc listing all daily, weekly and monthly tasks. Initially you might just write a list of the tasks, and then over time you can gradually document the MOPs for each.
- Create documents describing key pieces of your network architecture – e.g. IP network design or switch translations – so you have a way to bring a new person up to speed.
- Where possible, cross-train your team so that you always have two people with each skill set (even if one is stronger than the other).
- Encourage people to take vacations, and use those vacations to find out any gaps in your cross-training. If you need to contact someone while they’re on vacation then your people-redundancy system is broken.
It’s already too late!
If you found this article as a result of a Google search because this is happening to you right now, then much of the above advice is too late.
If you’re part-way through the two week notice period, then at least use this time to make sure all login information is recorded, and do your best to list out all the tasks this person performed, so you can hurriedly train other people in them.
We worked with a team in this situation recently. We were engaged to “be the experts” for a couple of months while they found a replacement Metaswitch / VoIP engineer. We began working with our client during the notice period, and we were able to record our video conferences with the departing engineer – which we found to be really helpful.
If your departing employee is training someone, the trainee isn’t going to remember every single thing that was said, but if you’re able to record the conversation (we used Zoom) you’ll have the option to replay that video in future – either as part of training a new hire, or to refresh the memory of the trainee.
I live in an earthquake zone. There hasn’t been a really big earthquake in 30 years, but one day it will happen. We don’t know when, but we’re continually reminded (and our kids are continually reminded at school) to be prepared. Get your emergency supplies now. Don’t wait.
In the same way, a good manager will take action now to prevent bad things happening later. Now is the time to evaluate your team, and find those people-related single-points-of-failure.
And if you are currently a man down, then contact us, and maybe we can provide some short-term help while you find a replacement.