Develop your contingency plan: Who is your next-in-command? | Guide and template

“Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson

If you don’t have a contingency plan in case one of your executives or key people takes a leave of absence as a result of COVID-19, it’s time to build one now. 

In a climate where teams are already lean (and even leaner if they’ve had layoffs), where people are uncertain about the future, and where the risk of absences is higher as employees are impacted by the pandemic, contingency planning is critical. If left unaddressed, one leave of absence may result in a leadership vacuum that could have serious consequences on the business.  

This guide and template will help you:

  • Develop a contingency plan for the top three levels of your organization as well as for critical roles.
  • Identify interim or acting managers as needed.
  • Understand the steps to transfer knowledge to prevent unnecessary business disruption.

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What do you have to lose if you do not have a contingency plan? 

Simply put, everything. Here are two examples from recent discussions with high-growth tech company leaders. 

Details have been removed and names have been changed to protect identities.

Example 1: Lead executive leaves 

Jen’s core product is an enterprise B2B application in a hard-hit industry. They are already running lean due to cuts at the beginning of the year and some unexpected turnover. Despite all the cuts and turnover, the company still does not have a back-up for the absence of any team member, even at the executive level. There is an assumption that each executive could step in for another.

Jen recognizes that if the VP or Director level was impacted by COVID-19 or a sudden departure, the company’s already lean teams would likely face further stress, which could lead to leaves related to mental health, as well as possible turnover, morale issues, impacts on its brand, and customer loss. 

Example 2: Key employee leaves 

I got a note from Sam saying his payroll person left. Any time a single point of contact leaves and you don’t have a business contingency plan, you are in trouble. And the last thing you need when people are worried about their jobs is to have their payroll not come through.  

Luckily, in this situation, the company had been using an outside payroll provider in the past and it was able to quickly switch back. However, I have seen other situations where HR or even the CEO took on this critical task. In these cases, it lead to the payroll arriving late or former employees being paid.

With no back-up plan, at best it will frustrate employees and at worst, have disastrous results.

Bottom line

Your business must have a contingency plan for the absence of all executives and key employees (such as single point of contacts).

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