How your best team member can be your weakest link

How your best team member can be your weakest link

A few years ago, Dixie Gillaspie, a consultant and business coach, was explaining the need for cross-training and process documentation when things went horribly wrong. She was addressing a medical management team and was giving her standard illustration by asking a hypothetical question.“What if one of you got hit by a bus tomorrow and didn’t come to work? How much would it cost the business?”

When she asked the question of other teams in the past, she usually noticed heads nodding as awareness and the implications of such a tragic problem dawned on her audience. But this time it was different. The faces staring back at her seemed horrified and angry. Gillaspie soon learned that, just a few months earlier, the company’s office manager and her father were killed in a car accident.

For the management team, her illustration wasn’t hypothetical. It was tragically real. It was also a classic example of the true weakest link in any team or organization. The office manager’s passing was emotionally devastating, but it also uncovered the many tasks the rest of the business took for granted and that no one else knew how to do. It’s a problem that many companies unexpectedly encounter, even in less tragic circumstances.

A sudden departure of a valued employee, a temporary leave of absence, or the inability to fill an open position often exposes a weak link that’s far more costly than an underperforming team member. When most executives and managers are asked to identify the weakest link on a given team, most of them start thinking in terms of performance, skills and attitude.

However, as Gillaspie points out, it’s not usually the slacker, prima donna or lesser talent that costs the business the most. It’s the person whose expertise is the most crucial and valuable.If a highly skilled expert is suddenly missing from your team, it can have an immediate and devastating impact. But it can also accumulate in small ways that you don’t notice at first but ultimately drag your entire team down.

This is why Gillaspie advises that all companies create a plan for documentation and cross-training where appropriate, and to have a hiring strategy in case you need to replace a key person in your organization. Unfortunately, at a time when U.S. unemployment is at historical lows and there’s increasing competition for top-tier business talent, a viable hiring strategy can be elusive.

It can be a challenge to find and hire temporary or permanent replacements. Staffing agencies potentially provide a short-term solution, but low unemployment and high demand for qualified candidates means their current contracting talent pool is weak. You can end up paying a premium in agency markups and end up with an underwhelming or disappointing hire. Recruiting firms can potentially entice candidates to leave an existing position, but competition for talent is so fierce that it’s becoming increasingly difficult, and hiring recruiters can be extremely costly.

Fortunately, the emergence of on-demand talent platforms and the rapid growth of the independent workforce offer a more cost-effective and viable solution. Millions of workers are now choosing to work independently to have greater freedom in choosing where and how they work, and to have greater control over their careers and work/life balance. This includes thousands of some of the world’s top business experts and consultants, who have backgrounds at top firms such as McKinsey, Bain and BCG. Many of them now work independently.

At Graphite, we built a platform and service model designed to connect these experts with Fortune 2000 companies, investment firms, consultancies, and businesses of all sizes. Hiring one of our independent consultants provides an opportunity to fill a crucial role on your team with a pre-vetted and highly qualified candidate who goes through our rigorous and proprietary vetting process.

Our candidates are also rated and reviewed by past Graphite clients, with an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars and their project histories shown on their profiles when they apply for your job. Each candidate has a minimum of two years at a Big Three consulting firm, Fortune 500 company, or similar organization, and our consultants average 10 years of proven professional experience. They offer expertise in corporate strategy, finance, marketing, product development, analytics, IT, investment banking and much more. You can even hire out consultants to help you develop processes, documentation and training so you can avoid the weak link of unshared knowledge and expertise.

Graphite consultants also cost up to 60% less than using a staffing or recruiting firm, with flexible terms that you decide. You can hire a short-term, interim replacement, a long-term resource, or even audition a potential permanent replacement. Some candidates are also available for on-site assignments or travel as necessary. It’s a great way to strengthen your team and have a viable short-term or long-term hiring plan in case you need to replace one of your best team members.

You can visit our website to learn more about our consultants and get started now, or you can contact us to get answers to your questions and learn more about the possibilities.

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