Workflow and Employee Turnover

“Susan is leaving the agency. Her last day is Friday.”

As a Traffic Manager, these words send shivers down my spine. [Even worse is a phrase like, “We regret to inform everyone that Susan is no longer with our agency, effective immediately.”] My mind immediately starts buzzing with questions — “What’s on her plate now?” “What’s coming up?” “ Who’s going to take care of project A when she’s gone?” … and on and on.

After a deep breath (and a shot of tequila… kidding), the true Traffic Manager in me comes out and I get down to business. There are several steps for ensuring an employee’s departure doesn’t cause a huge ripple in the workflow space-time continuum.

1. Revoke access to the project management system. In a system like CurrentTrack®, for example, it’s as simple as changing an employee’s status from “Here” to “Gone.” Once it’s changed, s(he) can no longer log into the system. This is especially important if the employee is leaving on not-so-ideal terms and you’re afraid of malicious actions on his/her part.

2. Print out the employee’s task list. A comprehensive list of all working and upcoming tasks assigned to the employee is critical for ensuring deadlines remain intact.

3. Reassign the workload. There are a couple of ways to approach the reassignment of work, depending on the employee’s former role in the agency. If s(he) was an Account Executive (AE), for example, it may be easier to simply reassign the entire client (and all associated Tasks) to another AE. If an Art Director (AD) is leaving, splitting his/her working tasks among other ADs, after talking briefly with the Creative Director, may be the best option.

First and foremost, find the “hot” tasks and immediately move them to another employee(s). You can always go back and look at “the big picture” once those tasks are out the door. The workflow process should never come to a screeching halt just because an employee leaves the agency.

So, in essence, you’re looking for:

A. “Hot” tasks

B. Tasks with a bit more lead time (e.g. next week)

C. Tasks with ample lead time (e.g. two or more weeks out)

D. Tasks not currently labeled working, but for which the employee is responsible

This should cover all tasks tied to the employee leaving the agency. In CurrentTrack, the reassignment process is made easier by a prompt to “move all associated tasks to another employee?” Confirm whether or not your project management system has a similar feature. It will make your job a lot easier.

CAVEAT: It’s common practice to simply assign an employee’s workload to his/her manager until a replacement is found. If you move everything onto the AE, for example, be sure to move as much as possible back onto the new Account Coordinator (AC), once hired. You don’t want everything to remain with the manager and lead to a bottleneck workflow.

4. Update calendar events. Don’t forget to move applicable calendar events to another employee(s), or entirely remove the now gone employee (e.g. photo shoot, anniversary date, vacation days). This may require the assistance of your Human Resources (HR) or Office Manager if you’re unable to edit calendar events proposed by others in the agency.

5. Change log in credentials. Depending on the employee’s former role, it may be necessary to change log in credentials on agency social media profiles, for example. If s(he) is a member of the IT team, you may also need to modify access details for the server and other IT-related tools. Again, this is especially important if the employee is leaving on not-so-ideal terms and you’re afraid of malicious actions on his/her part.

6. Have a shot of tequila (kidding). The transition process is almost over.

7. Get ready for the new hire. Once a replacement candidate is found — hopefully, very quickly — you’ll need to begin the process of bringing him/her into the workflow loop. In a previous blog post, I outlined several steps for bringing new hires on board. Click here to read more.

If you follow these steps, without or without the exception of #6 (I’ll leave that one up to you), the workflow process should continue relatively uninterrupted due to an employee’s departure. As a Traffic Manager, that should be your number one priority — keep things moving!

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