business womanJanet began at your company in an entry-level accounting position 20 years ago.  When new computer technology was adopted in her department, she took an active part of the transition, working closely with your IT staff to configure the new platform to your company’s needs.  Janet has trained all incoming employees in the technology since its adoption.  In preparation for her retirement, she has developed a curriculum for technological training.

Your company is now looking to fill the imminent void that Janet’s retirement will create in the accounting, IT, and training departments.  You have come to the conclusion that no one employee or recruit will likely have the skills necessary to assume all of Janet’s job responsibilities.  In fact, no one is really sure what all of Janet’s job responsibilities are, since they are spread across three departments.  So, where to go from here?

A representative from the Human Resources department suggests that the first step is to find out what Janet actually does on the job before trying to find her replacement(s).  A document is put together that details Janet’s job tasks and responsibilities.  Using this document as a reference, the company decides to divide the position into three parts – accountant, technology liaison, and trainer.  From this point, the company decides how to fill the vacancies created by Janet’s retirement in the following ways:

  • A new entry-level accountant will be hired.
  • A veteran accountant will take on the additional duty of being technology liaison between the accounting and IT departments.
  • To prepare for a planned expansion of the accounting department following a recent corporate acquisition, a designated trainer will be hired to train the employees gained from the merger in the company’s technology.  The company expects that the new trainer will also be an asset to other departments in future endeavors.

Janet will transition her responsibilities to her successors in the coming year in preparation for her retirement, following a pre-determined employee development plan for the incumbents.  By the time she retires, Janet’s successors will be adequately prepared to tackle their new responsibilities and will aid the company in its upcoming expansion.  Everybody wins!

The longer an employee is with a company, the more likely it is that the employee has assumed responsibilities that lay outside of their original job description.  When the employee climbs through the ranks, chances are that they have job responsibilities that are not replicated elsewhere in the company.  It is important to document an employee’s unique job responsibilities and knowledge in order to facilitate effective succession plans and to protect the company from a single point of failure.