Do you have a plan in place for when a worker quits with no notice?
Why do employees always quit at the worst possible times? The phone continually rings, orders are rolling in, the routes are at their busiest — and at that moment, a key employee chooses to leave. Obviously there is never a great time for an employee to leave, but the height of the busy season is the worst.
In a large corporation, it is easy to spread that person’s work out over a couple of employees. You have a larger employee pool to select from, so you aren’t necessarily burdening an overworked employee. In a small company, this becomes a logistical nightmare. Everyone is working hard, so how do you handle this without a huge interruption to service or a mutiny on your hands?
It may seem obvious, but I can’t emphasize this enough: Always know what tasks each employee does. When someone has worked for you for a long period of time, it’s really easy to continually give them work. Then they leave and you are shocked by how many accounts they handled or how many small details they took care of. Over time this can really build up. Yearly reviews help with this. It gives you an opportunity to break down that employee’s job and get a good idea of everything they handle. Otherwise you might never know that your dispatcher also orders all of your office supplies.
If you are making the decision to let an employee go, think through how you will spread out their work. Sometimes the most logical transitions aren’t really what is best for the company. For example, you need to let a dispatcher go: Do you hire a new one midseason, or do you see if you can move another employee into that job? A new dispatcher probably knows more about the business of dispatching. But they may not know anything about your company or your procedures. Someone inside the company knows a lot about your company, your products and your procedures. They also know how to use your computer system; they just need to get a little dispatch training. So hiring from within the company may be a more time-efficient move than hiring from the outside.
In the worst situations, the employee up and quits on you. They gave no notice and you really need to find another solution fast. Unfortunately for your other employees, you need to spread some work out. You will have key employees that you can lean on first. The easiest solution is to ask them to temporarily take over this employee’s tasks.
But that can’t be a permanent solution, so you will need to rearrange or hire. Look to employees who seem to have extra time. Maybe the receptionist can write out orders and customer service will only have to key them in. Maybe the biller can be trained to put in work orders, so on lighter billing days, they can help out with excess work.
Finally, you will need a plan to replace this person. When we are at our busiest, I turn to a temporary employment agency. By using them, I know I am getting a well-trained worker with the basic skills I need. The cherry on top is that if that person doesn’t fit, they can send me a new worker the next day. A temp agency isn’t a long-term solution, usually because the costs are so high. But in a pinch, they can really get you out of a bind.
Anyone who has worked in a small business knows you need to be flexible. You never know day to day what your job will entail. Hiring workers that understand this is the key to your success, especially when you have a limited number of employees but a lot of work to do.
About the author: Alexandra Townsend is co-owner of A Royal Flush, based in Philadelphia.