People are often cited as the most valuable resource of an organisation. The more capable an employee is and the better trained, the more an enterprise stands to profit – up to a point. Difficulties may begin when a person becomes indispensable because of unique expertise that is essential to the smooth running of the company. Those difficulties are then compounded if the expert tries to force the company to stay within that perimeter of expertise; perhaps for fear of being pushed to one side and even being made redundant. A situation like this runs counter to what business continuity is all about. What is the best way to handle it?
The first and hardest thing to do is to recognise that nobody should be allowed to hold an organisation to ransom through expert knowledge. If an expert becomes uncooperative, it may take time and effort to work things out to mutual satisfaction, but the situation cannot continue indefinitely. The expert has in effect become a single point of business discontinuity: both in the short term because of the lack of back-up (in the case of absence of the expert) and in the long term because of making the enterprise a prisoner of a technology or methodology that may become outdated and uncompetitive. Note that ‘Key Person Insurance’ is not the solution: it only buys time for an enterprise to find a replacement person in the event of the expert becoming unable to work (illness or death).
A better strategy is to avoid such circumstances altogether. Intra-departmental staff cross-training can go a long way to build teams of multi-skilled individuals. When this is properly planned and executed as a regular activity, business continuity is strengthened. Besides training, open and constructive communication up and down the organisation is also important. Sometimes there will be no option but for people to change responsibilities or move to different jobs. However, keeping everyone in the loop helps prevent the suspicion and feelings of insecurity that can lead to an otherwise valuable individual trying to carve out an impregnable job niche.