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Here is a sobering task: Close your eyes and think about your staff. It is a virtual certainty that there will be at least one person, perhaps more, who “makes” your company. In fact, you may not even be able to conceive of your business without this crucial person close at hand. You or other staff members might even say, half jokingly, something like, “Without Bill, this place wouldn’t exist.” Or “Without Janet, everything would fall apart.”

That being said, one of the few things you can absolutely count on in this world is change. There may come a day when Bill or Janet decides to move or retire. He or she may even die, leaving you and your staff emotionally bereft and unsure of where to go or what to do next. Before that unspeakable day comes, take some steps to insulate yourself against the loss of such a precious employee and the threats to your company’s security that may follow.

Track and Manage Your Access Controls

Janet might be the holder of your company’s biometric data, the person people come to for keycards, parking or gate passes. Make sure that you or someone else you trust has a thorough understanding of how all of these security aspects work. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to go to the vendors who sold them to you in the first place.

Monitor Your Accounts

Instead of placing company credit cards, login information, server administration accounts, remote access, voicemail and user workstation accounts into one person’s hands, take steps to manage them centrally. As soon as an employee no longer works for you for whatever reason, deactivate all of his accounts. Remembering that restoring from a backup made before the employee left may result in all of his user information being restored and reactivated. Have policies in place so that you are not caught off guard if a disaster happens or someone leaves unexpectedly.

Conduct Exit Interviews

Make it standard protocol to give an exit interview to all employees who are leaving. Doing so can give you invaluable information about what is and isn’t working in your company as well as the status of the particular person’s work in progress and user accounts. These interviews can give you an entirely new perspective on your business and on the priorities you should address in the near future.

Keep Track of Your Inventory

If Bill is the only one who has his finger on the pulse of what products you have in stock and what you need to order, what will you do if he wins the lottery tonight and disappears? Maintain a detailed list of all products and resources in real time that is regularly updated. By doing so, you will know what resources must be returned to you before an employee leaves.

Lock Down

You might not be able to imagine this ever happening, but there may come a time when your poster child for Essential Employee of the Decade turns against you. There is nothing in the work world more dangerous than a disgruntled employee, especially one who has been given a great deal of power in an organization. That’s why you need to come up with a comprehensive, crystal clear and well-managed lock down policy that you can implement if a worker you trusted is under suspicion or has left under bad circumstances.

Passwords

Make a policy that all access codes and passwords must be set to a temporary value that the employee who is leaving does not know. To make this easier, move to a system of using personalized administrative accounts; doing so will prevent your IT workers from needing to learn an entirely new set of passwords every time staff leave the company. Either you or someone you trust and closely oversee should keep careful records of all the accounts that exist on your network and other resources. Once you have this in place, you can quickly spot an un-authorized account as well as delete a newly unauthorized one. When changing passwords, don’t make your new choices simple or easy to guess, even if they are just temporary. If you do, you’re just asking to be hacked.

Privacy

Not everything at your workplace needs to be public. Give your workers a place such as a private directory where they can store their own non work-related personal notes, etc. If an employee suddenly dies or leaves, the fact that you have taken this step will allow you to more easily separate company property from personal. Make sure your staff understands that the data they keep in their personal, private directory will not necessarily be backed up by the company. Also, make sure everyone understands that you have the right to inspect the private information on your company drives if the employee is terminated.

Key-Person Insurance

If you have an essential employee who passes away or leaves for another reason, having key-person life or key-person disability insurance can help to protect you against all of the difficulties and chaos that will occur when he or she is gone. You are a good candidate for this type of coverage if:

  • You have key people such as executives or decision-makers who would be difficult and time-consuming to replace.
  • You employ people who have unique training and/or are highly skilled.
  • You employ workers who have exclusive relationships with some of your clients.
  • You would be in great financial difficulty if an essential employee was no longer there.

If a crucial worker dies or leaves unexpectedly, this coverage furnishes income checks to make up for the loss and to provide for a short- or long-term replacement. Key-person insurance works like this: You take out a life insurance policy for your employee and are listed as the beneficiary. If the employee leaves or dies, you file the claim. If your key employee wants to retire, you can transfer it to him as a retirement benefit or transfer it to his replacement. Premiums fluctuate depending on the key person’s age, health history and physical condition.

As a business owner, you know better than most how important it is to be able to rely on one or two crucial employees. After all, you are only one person, and it certainly is a relief to be able to shift some of the burden of company operations onto the capable shoulders of others. There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing so, just as long as you put some time and careful thought into protecting yourself and your interests. Doing some work now to implement clear policies and procedures will make the road far smoother if and when your point person is no longer there for you.