Kim had been with LogicPrep from the very beginning when there were just four of us working out of one room. Since joining in 2011, she helped us grow from four to 25 employees, coordinate the move to our current office (she and her husband literally carried furniture and hung our sign) and consistently increased annual revenue by 30 percent year over year.
She really did it all. And, well, that was the problem.
When Kim announced that she’d be moving across the country in two weeks with her husband, who got an amazing new job in California, we worried where that would leave LogicPrep. She was our one-woman HR, client relations and finance departments, and while the “all hands on deck” mentality is invigorating, it can create problems when the company relies too much on one person and doesn’t have clearly defined roles.
We’ve created a better system since then, delving into best practices for splitting up jobs, mitigating role confusion and writing employee manuals. Here’s how to put these principles to the test in your own business.
We realized we needed a more complex system to capture the complexity of Kim’s job – but manuals are just so old-fashioned. Preempt the need to document jobs only on departure by encouraging every employee in your company to capture his or her responsibilities, along with relevant links to websites, PDFs, etc. on a backend website. We use Squarespace for this. This doesn’t have to be a massive side project, either; it may simply be helpful for employees to keep the Squarespace site open in the background of their computers over the course of a couple of months. They can fill it in as they’re completing their daily tasks. This format is more flexible and interactive than a traditional manual, which may not effectively capture the dynamic nature of a growing company.
Every individual in your organization should have a job description, and as the jobs evolve, so too should their documentation. For example, we looked at Kim’s roles and divided them up. We realized that half of her responsibilities fit into the finance camp. The other half centered around employee/client relations. So, we created two distinct jobs and started looking for people to fill them. During employee check-ins and evaluations, take stock of how your employees are actually spending their time, and make sure their job descriptions reflect that. It is also helpful to share these descriptions on a Google Document so that employees know who to defer for what — especially as the company grows and responsibilities start to split.
With the clock ticking, it can be tempting to overlook imperfections and convince yourself you’ve found the right person when you really haven’t. After we better defined what we were seeking, we developed tests to pinpoint the specific skill sets required for the individual to excel in that role. We realized that the interview process should not only take personality and previous experience into account, but also test for the particular strengths that the individual needs to possess. For example, because the role would require a lot of client interaction in a fast-paced environment, we administered a typing test and asked applicants to respond to sensitive emails under a time constraint. Don’t fall prey to charm; instead, develop specific tests that allow you to objectively evaluate each candidate and their capacity to perform the job effectively.
My co-founder told me at Kim’s going away party that the transition feels like graduating from college — it’s sad and exciting, nostalgic and scary all at once. But you know, it’s a good scary. I have to agree that as sad as it is to see her move to the West Coast, Kim’s departure has made our company stronger, more streamlined and more scalable. I guess you could say our little baby is growing up.