Your super user is leaving, now what?

By - June 7, 2021

There is a reason organizations ask for two weeks’ notice. When a key resource decides to leave an organization, a great scramble to obtain legacy knowledge usually begins. At associations, we know budgets are tight, staff is limited, and knowledge is like gold.

Why scramble? Why isn’t there someone else on the team that can fill the gap?

At nonprofits and associations, this situation happens far too often – Organization silos. Resources across departments have no visibility or awareness around how the other departments function day-to-day. A simple example: Betty in the fundraising department may process transactions a particular way, while Joe in the membership department follows a completely different approach. Information and process sharing is non-existent or limited between the two.

Now, Betty decides she has found a better opportunity and has decided to leave the organization. Who is going to fill the void and process the fundraising transactions? Queue the two-week scramble!

So how can this be avoided? How can organizations mitigate the risk so that when a critical resource leaves, the enterprise’s processes and knowledge remain unimpacted?

The answer is rather simple – Cross-training.

Cross-training and knowledge sharing is invaluable, but far too easily deprioritized. It’s something that can greatly help an organization save immeasurable amounts of costs over time.

For one, having multiple resources with awareness about a process and how it works might help evaluate why and how the process is performed.  There is a difference between having a “super user”, and a “single-user”.

Making sure your staff is adequately trained in systems and processes has a cost associated with it, but the benefits outweigh this cost over time. At RSM we are committed to setting your team up for success. We can provide training to groups or individuals on countless business applications such as Microsoft Dynamics, iMIS, Sage Intacct, and so on. We work together with you to develop training to fit your organization’s needs. It is one easy way to make sure that multiple users have the skill sets your organization need should you have to rely on them. This allows for breathing room and does not position an organization into a corner of needing to backfill the position.

What is another solution to accomplish cross-training at your association?

Encourage a day in the life rotation with a train the trainer approach. Use your own staff to train others in the activities they go through daily. This time can also be leveraged to get your training guide repository updated. This gives staff an opportunity to work in a department they may have also been interested in. Make it fun! This is important to do a couple times a year.

So now your staff has been cross-trained. There are a handful of users that can perform the various functions. Now what?

For the applications used daily, staying up to date with the latest updates, patches, and enhancements is important. You will find that when your staff is trained in the applications they use daily, and have others within the organization to bounce ideas off of, they get innovative. They will use the technology to their advantage instead of working silently in the background creating their own processes that leave with them when they leave your organization. This collaborative mindset will help transform manual processes using technology to streamline work and ultimately drive costs down.

What happens if cross-training just doesn’t work?

Sometimes the answer isn’t internal. Outsourcing is a great way to increase your staff’s bandwidth and let the experts handle the day-to-day.  RSM has expertise in specialized functions that can be outsourced such as managed IT services, HR and accounting. For the nonprofit sector, this can be huge. Instead of focusing on the day-to-day processing of financial transactions or worrying about the latest patch for servers, organizations can spend time on their mission.

A final note. Organizations still want to make sure there is ownership. Just because the staff is cross-trained to jump in when the time calls, you don’t want the ownership of the responsibilities to be diminished. It is important to stress your organization’s structure and responsibilities within each role.  Having a fixable staff that can wear many hats proves itself in times of adversity.

So good radiance to fearing the two weeks’ notice, let the cross-training begin!

Jacque is a manager with 8+ years of experience in the nonprofit industry. She is well-versed in large and small associations, and charitable and grantmaking organizations, and understands how to advise differently based on size, constituent count, and budget while keeping the organization’s mission at the forefront. She specializes in finding the best solutions to support grant, fundraising, membership, and association-focused organizations. She maintains that the focus remains on the people and works to formulate processes by leveraging technology.

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