Yet Another Reason to Document Your Processes

Your employees work for you for a reason. They are good at what they do. What happens when they leave? What information are they taking with them that no one else in the company knows? Will everything run the same after they’re gone?

One of my tasks for our new client is to document everything one of their employees knows before he leaves for a new job. That’s a little bit of an exaggeration but he was with the company for almost 15 years and was leaving for another job (with a lot of valuable knowledge that only he knew).

We sat down, created a bunch documents and racked his brain to see if he was missing anything. We probably missed some things but the big, obvious things we got. And he gave over a month’s notice.

What would happen if someone gave two weeks notice, or one day, or just never showed up to work again? There would be no way to figure out what she did and how she did it – and it would take lots of time (money) to figure it out (if you could even figure it out).

It’s your choice how you can prepare for this. Maybe have all of your employees’ tasks documented up front, maybe have them documented as a new process is created, or just scramble and hope for the best when they resign or you terminate them.

Luckily when I got my technical writing job, everything was well documented and explained so I didn’t have to do much brain racking. Even luckier for me is that the person who had the job before me is my friend and left to go back to school – so he didn’t mind being asked questions weeks and even months down the road (or at least he didn’t act like he minded).

Most people aren’t that lucky.  But why leave it to luck. Be prepared!

3 replies on “Yet Another Reason to Document Your Processes”

This implies that the employee is leaving on good terms. I think this might be more difficult if the person was getting fired, or quit in an angry rage.

One of the things I always do at my job is to make sure that there is at least one thing (or instrument or device) that I am the only person that knows how it works. It’s good job security!

This is a great idea. I once had position that rotated annually (an AmeriCorps gig – so my company couldn’t afford to hire a real full-time person – though it was totally necessary), and it was surprising how little information was written down to pass along to the next person taking over the position. Almost everything I did I had to ask someone else or recreate the wheel. Before I left the position I did what Katherine suggested and wrote down EVERYTHING that I did, step by step, with lots of notes about where to find more information or who to ask about what.

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