What to Do When a Key Employee Goes On Leave

Vacations, maternity leave and illnesses can leave you short-staffed. The best way to keep going

Written by Advisory Board

Welcome to Advisory Board, a weekly department in which a panel of experts—made up of entrepreneurs and professionals—answer questions you have about how to run your business better.

This week, a reader asks:

“My general manager is taking three weeks off to go on honeymoon. Should I hire a contract worker to fill his role while he’s on leave or redistribute his responsibilities to other members of my team?”

Here’s what the experts have to say:

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“Rather than try to integrate a new contract worker into your culture, look at this as a great opportunity for up-and-coming staff members to learn some new skills and take on new responsibilities. Most staff rise to the challenge and appreciate you trusting them with added responsibilities. Look at it as an on-the-job interview and a low-risk opportunity to judge whether an employee is ready for the next step in your company.”

Phoebe Fung, proprietor, Vin Room and VR Wine, Calgary

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“An important part of any manager’s job is to train someone else to ultimately do their job; doing so lets the manager get promoted beyond their current role. The responsibility should be placed back on the general manager to make sure someone is trained to assume her/his role for those three weeks, and you as the business owner can evaluate how good a job the GM did training their replacement.”

Jeff Quipp, founder & CEO, Search Engine People Inc., Toronto

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“This will seem like a totally contrarian answer coming from someone who runs a contract management and recruiting firm, but in this particular case I would say €˜no’ to hiring an external party.

It’s too short an assignment for an external talent to come in at that level of seniority. They would need significant upfront training to be of value. Spreading the workload is also hard as it simply puts added burden on other people.

“Select an internal candidate, a high performer, to support the role. This provides future back-up support for your general manager, develops a succession path and also creates a great development experience for the individual you select to fill in.”

Shannon Bowen-Smed, president & CEO, BOWEN, Calgary

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“Re-distribute if you feel the work can get done, and pay a bonus or throw a party for those who take on the extra work. This also creates cross-functionality and workload awareness to others working on the team so they better understand what the GM does all day. You will also be better prepared if he happens to be off sick or miss more than a few days of work—your will be able to step in and help out.”

Kelsey Ramsden, business guide and founder, SparkPlay Inc., London, Ont.


Do you have a question you’d like answered? Email us and we’ll put it to the experts. Have any advice to add to this list? Share your thoughts using the comments section below.

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com