The situation: two of your top managers have resigned in a single day.
- keeping the business going until you can find suitable replacements;
- maintaining staff morale;
- convincing stakeholders and customers that you can still deliver on orders that are currently in the pipeline; and
- actually delivering on those orders.
The solution? Read on.
It’s not an easy one, but there is always a way through. No single individual is irreplaceable, although some might think that they are. Influential employees do have the ability to take clients (and other staff members) with them when they leave, but if you have a solid business, you should be able to withstand this.
So you need a plan, if you didn’t have one already. If these resignations are genuinely out of the blue, you need an emergency meeting with the other senior management team. And you need a trusted recruitment partner.
The process is as follows: manage the current crisis, steady the ship, and communicate with your employees, your stakeholders, and your clients. In other words – appear strong and stable! Key projects might be slightly delayed, but you can always offer something else in exchange, and communicating your plan will always go a long way towards maintaining goodwill and client loyalty.
This is where your recruitment partner can help. A good one will swoop in at a moment’s notice to talk to you about your situation, and they will offer a range of solutions to help you through.
At senior level, it often pays to hire an interim / contract person with specific experience of your industry / technical environment / situation to help you through the short-term pain, while you look for a suitable permanent replacement. Interim managers are expensive, but are usually very experienced and worth the cost, when you consider the opportunity cost of not having them in place. You should always vet them properly first, of course. A good recruiter will offer a range of assessments – technical, psychometric, general intelligence, emotional intelligence – to back up your decision.
Once this person is in place, you should have enough breathing space to be able to start the permanent recruitment process in earnest. This can be quite involved; you’ll need to factor in the cost and time for advertising, headhunting, interviewing, and notice periods, so you will need to be patient. But – back to opportunity cost – you don’t want to get it wrong again. At any level the cost of making a hiring mistake is a multiple of the actual cost of paying that person, and at senior level the multiple itself is multiplied.
Schedule regular reviews with the people you employ. If you manage them properly and encourage two-way communication, you can often anticipate personnel changes. Is someone demotivated? Do they need a break? Do they deserve a promotion? Talk about what you can do to address their concerns, and consider using motivational maps to find out what makes your employees tick.
What not to do
Firstly – do not panic! The situation might seem bleak, but a solution can be found, as long as you consider your actions and make a plan.
Secondly – do not make two internal promotions the very same day! Unless, that is, you happen to have two people with exactly the right skills, experience, behaviours, motivations, and intelligence, who are waiting in the wings for exactly this opportunity. And even if you are in this situation, remember that you’ll have to backfill their roles too. At some point you will run out of viable options.
In business, image is very important. You need to give the impression that you are in control of the situation, and your brand should be strong enough to cope with the occasional change at the top.
But there needs to be substance behind the façade. To have substance, you need to choose your leadership team very carefully, and not just because they agree with what you say.
A week might be a long time in politics, but that’s no reason to rush the recruitment process. Take stock, take your time, take advice from your recruitment partner – and business is more likely take care of itself.