When Employee Turnover Reveals an Organizational Vulnerability

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When a long-time employee retires, it is an opportunity to celebrate their many years of service to the company as well as the key contributions they have added along the way. It also highlights the many ways an organization has come to rely on the individual to keep their everyday operations running smoothly.

As ideal as it would be to have every step of every process in an organization well documented, there is often a disconnect between this ideal and the reality of setting things down on paper. It is natural to take an “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” approach, and this can work well for teams that remain together indefinitely, but falls apart the moment that retirement announcement comes, and the rest of the team needs to identify what slack they now must make up for. Hammer Dev has helped  clients with similar situations, and in each case, there was an opportunity to mitigate a variety of risks involved with having a lack of clarity into the organization’s key processes.

But First, Why Document?

Documents are in many ways the backbone of society. They are a key method for transmitting and codifying information about individuals, organizations, and processes, so the value of documentation in theory is pretty self-explanatory.

When it comes to business, documentation provides a unique kind of value that is often overlooked. Depending on the industry, proper documentation can help mitigate risks like:

The Key Man Risk

When one key person in an organization leaves and no one else knows how to perform the tasks they were responsible for.

Tribal Knowledge Risk

When the entire organization develops best practices and protocols that are not written down or easily shared with new members.

Limited Bandwidth Risks

Details are missed because employees are too busy managing the workflow to double check them.

Compliance Risks

There is no obvious way of identifying and mitigating safety and regulatory concerns.

Data Fidelity & Accessibility Risks

There is no clear guidance on how to collect, manage, and store data, so data quality is compromised.

The case of a retirement announcement was pulled from a real situation where a Hammer Dev client in the manufacturing space had an employee of 30 years, scheduled to retire. Once the decision was made, business leaders at the organization were forced to reckon with the fact that there were many ad-hoc workflows that their employee had handled in response to the needs of the business, none of which were documented in an easy to access format.

When Documentation Is Not Complete

The manufacturer Hammer Dev helped had documentation for many of its processes, but by virtue of spending 30 years at the company, the employee who was retiring had a wealth of knowledge that never actually made it onto paper. Part of the reason the employee’s knowledge never made it to formal documentation is that even the best prepared set of policies and procedures cannot account for every issue that may arise, and the employee handled many ad hoc requests which kept the business going but lacked any formal place in the established documentation. Given the dedication to the organization and its mission, it was also perfectly understandable that the employee focused more on helping the manufacturer grow rather than setting the information down for the record.

However, with the announcement of the employee’s retirement, the manufacturer’s leadership knew they needed to download as much information as possible from their employee precisely because they had played such an integral part in the organization’s success. When the manufacturer enlisted Hammer Dev’s help, it was found that some key processes required as many as 50 different steps and there were 18 processes that could have been optimized to ensure that the employee was maximizing the value of their time. In addition to the established processes, the employee had been a part of many ad hoc workflows that forced the employee to operate in a more reactive manner for a good portion of their role.

By documenting the various processes and identifying key areas of improvement, Hammer Dev was able to not just codify the existing processes for the organization, but also make clear to the manufacturer’s leadership team and organization more broadly what steps were critical to their process and which still needed some work to be effective.

So…How Can I Document My Business Processes?

Process Documentation requires a bit more work than simply writing down what each employee does. While a written document is the goal, whenever documentation is done internally, there are often steps omitted unintentionally, making such efforts ineffective. The reason for this is these documents are generated by a team that already has a shared understanding of how the process works, so they may assume certain knowledge. Someone outside of the organization may not have access to the same knowledge shared by the team. However, working with an outside consultant can overcome these challenges, because it allows someone without any prior knowledge of an organization to get granular details about how each process works. Here’s what to expect when working with a process documentation consultant:

Make Sure There’s Ample One-on-One Time

A major misconception about process documentation is that it is possible to complete it in a single sitting. Any professional who will effectively document your business’s processes will want to dig into the details of the process to ensure that no small step is overlooked while generating the documentation. This is necessary to understand how a specific process works within an organization and how it connects to the wider ecosystem of actions, but it does require time.

Any business leader signing up to have their processes documented should be prepared to dedicate considerable time for them to work with the stakeholders involved in the process. Doing so will ensure nothing gets missed, maximizing the value of the project.

It Can Be Used to Identify a Roadmap to Efficiencies

With detailed documentation of an organization’s processes, leaders will be able to see how the different workflows within their organization work together, but with the help of a skilled business analyst, those documents provide an opportunity for even more insight.

While process documentation provides immense value on its own, it allows a business analyst to identify opportunities to improve an organization’s overall efficiency, reducing cost in the process. Hammer Dev was able to identify 18 different processes that could have been optimized when evaluating the manufacturing company whose employee was retiring, which would have gone unrecognized if the organization had not dedicated the time to documenting those processes in the first place.

Documentation Gets Everyone on the Same Page

Businesses are complex organizations, and even if the ultimate responsibility for how they operate rests with leaders, it is unreasonable to expect any business leader to know all the intimate details of how an organization does what it does from observing the office, because it is physically impossible to be there for each step of an employee’s daily tasks.

Having detailed documentation of key processes will enable teams to develop a shared understanding of what work will have the highest impact on the organization. Developing a shared understanding within the organization will allow anyone to quickly understand their impact within the broader organization without requiring in-depth discussions or observations of their fellow team members.

Taking the Time to Write Things Down

Dismissing the need for detailed documentation as unnecessary sets an organization up for failure. Things may run fine while the tribe remains intact, but the reality is that even the best teams experience turnover eventually, and it is important to be prepared for that.

Partnering with a skilled consultant with experience in the business analysis space is one of the best ways to protect your organization from that kind of turnover because they will be able to dig into the details of how each step of a process fits into the overall picture of the organization. With years of experience helping organizations across industries document and optimize their business processes, Hammer Dev will work with any organization that may need help getting their key workflows codified.

Want to know more about Hammer Dev’s process? The journey starts here.