5 ways to make backfilling a job easier

July 23, 2015

Many people have heard the expression plan your work and work your plan.  This is sound advice for many aspects of business productivity including Workforce Planning.   Having to fill a sudden vacancy can be made easier if some contingency planning has taken place in advance of the need.  Two important steps filling to short-term needs are identifying positions that have no redundancy and establishing sources for replacement talent in advance of the need.

In today’s lean economy there is very little fat.  Very few positions have built in redundancy.    One way to build in some redundancy is to cross train employees on various positions in advance of having to backfill a holiday or an extended leave.   By cross training an accounts payable clerk in the processes and procedures of the accounts payable clerk, and vice versa, you can build in a bit of redundancy in advance.

Cross training can be extended to grooming a team member for a larger role.    In many cases a manager can step in and perform the duties of a subordinate.   That is how short absences are frequently backfilled.  An alternative is to advance a subordinate into a more advanced role.   This may not always be possible but in some cases a portion of the manager’s duties can be taken over by a subordinate with a smaller portion of the “managerial” duties advance up the line.

There are added benefits to cross training that includes employee retention.  In some cases managers hoard talent and limit employees who are ready for more.  By identifying employees who can and will assume greater roles at an external company if not developed internally, backfill preparation can be seen as a stepping stone to advancement.

Another simple step that can be carried out in advance of a backfill demand is to maintain a database of skills for each member of the team.    The database can then be used to match up required skills with available skills.   Perhaps someone on the team has moved out of a department but still possesses the skills learned even if a bit out practice.   This person could be brought back on a short-term basis to fill the position temporarily.   The key is knowing which people possess which skills.   This applies to people that have left your firm.   You may be able to attract someone back, even if it is only on a contract.

In the case of a longer absence with a known duration it may make sense to hire a contract replacement.    Parental leave is a good example of this type of situation.   You may also need to backfill a position because someone is on a large project and cannot complete the duties of both positions.   These situations are frequently seen in a finance setting where skills are transportable.   PTChr specializes in filling those kinds of roles.  Establishing a relationship with contractors in advance of your need will shorten the time it takes to fill a position.  This is critical in an emergency situation.

Identify these five factors in your organization in order to make backfilling a position easier.

  1. Build a skill database
  2. Identify at risk employees
  3. Identify at risk positions
  4. Identify cross training opportunities
  5. Identify outside resources that can help in an emergency

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