Have you planned for a personnel disaster?

Seriously, disasters happen. People go AWOL, get seriously ill, leave without notice, get caught embezzling and are escorted out that day, etc. How screwed you will be when that happens depends largely on how well you plan ahead to minimize the impact of such disasters.

In my office, we call it the “hit by a bus” plan. The idea is to document enough key information that if someone gets hit by a bus tomorrow, their department would be able to continue functioning. (We’re a sensitive bunch.) This means that information related to the job is all written down in a formal manual, not just recorded in someone’s head.

Each staffer is responsible for keeping his or her own “hit by a bus” manual up-to-date with information about contacts, passcodes, procedures, notes about key non-staff personalities that they interact with regularly, etc. It’s included in everyone’s job description and it’s one of the items we evaluate managers on when we do annual evaluations.

I cannot recommend it highly enough. There’s enough chaos when you unexpectedly lose a staff member; you will be relieved not to be scrambling for these basics.

{ 6 comments… read them below }

  1. Luciana*

    You know, in my last job I was asked to write a “hit by a bus” plan, only my supervisor used a better description – you could call you “won the lottery” plan instead ;-).

  2. Wally Bock*

    A critical part of capturing the knowledge that goes with job is understanding the “who’s” of the job as well as the “what’s.” You’re starting to see knowledge retention efforts using traffic analysis or network analysis to determine who a person in a particular job contacts for both routine communication and problem solving. The results help you identify people who know about the job in question and people who have been resources for the job holder in the past.

  3. A Reader*

    What a fantastic idea. I’ve had one of these for a while, a result of my own initiative, not my company’s. After reading your post, I’m going to make a daily effort to update it, and direct others in my company to your blog. We are expecting a few extra personnel to be joining us in the New Year, so a “You Won the Lottery” record would be quite handy I think.

  4. Employment*

    I’m glad that organizations are promoting this. It is also a great way to help new hires. At my internship I saw the importance of such a plan and started notes for my own position as well as the department in general. Again in my new job I saw the importance again. My predecessor had left 6 months before I arrived. No one had a clue about what was going on in her world. It took weeks of randomly going through her things to put some processes together. I’ve already started writing down instructions to everything I do to avoid having the next person be as lost as I was.

  5. Anonymous*

    This is a really great idea – especially in our business that has very high turn over! I’m thinking about starting on my own “hit by a bus”, “won the lottery” (or maybe it’s my “had enough of the B.S”) plan.

  6. Seketabi*

    Ha! I call mine the “Apocalyptic Training Plan” – and I describe it as just in case my team of three has one move on, one retire, and I get hit by a bus. I’m thrilled to know I’m not alone in using that terminology!

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