Katalyst Group

Great news! Your company has committed to give back to the local community through launching a new community engagement initiative with a local not-for-profit. Everyone is excited for this new opportunity to give back to the community – but there’s a slight catch. Since your team has the best track record in the company for managing operations and cost management, one of your best team members has been made lead facilitator of this new initiative. 

Facilitating this initiative is a great opportunity for your team members to expand their leadership skills and enhance their contributions to the organization. However, since they are spearheading this effort, that means they will need to take a three-month hiatus from their day-to-day operations in order to devote all their time to managing this community project. This puts you and your team in a situation where you need to effectively prepare to operate without this key member. So what do you do?

Well, this kind of situation happens every day, and determining how to handle it requires companies to take a closer look at the organization and existing resources.

Some employees will see this change as a great opportunity to fill in a skill gap and exert their leadership capabilities, others may feel a sense of uncertainty about the future make-up and workload of the team. For both, best practices for managing through human capital changes do come in handy. 

Managing Change

Change is an inevitable aspect of business that can be difficult for managers and team members to navigate. Whether an employee is leaving of their own accord or a change in circumstances requires the reduction of a team, losing a key member can be challenging. But while changes in human capital can be disruptive and costly, there’s a choice of whether to embrace it or allow it to cause chaos in the organization. The unique aspect of organizational change is that it can be an unexpected opportunity for growth and improvement within the company. 

Through Katalyst’s years of direct experience with clients, we have learned not only the key factors that affect human capital changes, but also the best practices for handling that change. 

These best practices, discussed here, have helped organizations be better equipped for managing changes in their workforce, while also ensuring the departure of key employees does not lead to a decline in productivity or morale. 

1. Develop a Succession Plan

Developing a succession plan is one of the best ways for organizations to prepare for personnel changes. When developing a succession plan, the leadership team must first identify key individuals within the organization that have the potential to contribute to the organization. 

After identifying these key individuals, it is then the leadership team’s responsibility to develop these employees; intentionally training them in how to strategically plan, make decisions, and develop useful initiatives for the longevity of the organization. 

A succession plan is not just about replacing a key employee who is leaving, but about building strong relationships within your organization to create high-performance teams that can adapt to changes in the business environment.

To develop a succession plan, cultivate relationships with the leaders of teams within your company. These leaders should be known for attracting individuals with the skills and abilities to succeed within your team. These leaders will also be able to provide important insight into those who demonstrate the traits and characteristics of individuals who will be successful within your team.

2. Cross-Train Your Team Members

Cross-training involves dedicating short periods of time (1-2 hours a week) to training employees on key activities within their department over the course of weeks and months. 

While time is a valuable commodity, creating and executing a plan for cross-training employees on key business activities will pay dividends in your organization. Especially in terms of ensuring that your team is capable and prepared to manage through change during extended periods of time should a team member be on leave or is dedicated to a special project that takes them away from their day to day responsibilities.

Consider using cross-training as an opportunity to allow key team members to mentor the staff being developed for continued growth within your organization. This training will expose both team members to learning opportunities and foster a culture of growth – demonstrating your investment in helping them develop new skills. 

Human Capital Changes

3. Maintain a Library of Processes and Procedures

Maintaining a library of processes and procedures is another effective and often overlooked best practice for managing through change. As business technologies and methodologies improve, it’s vital that mature organizations take the time to invest in defining key processes and documenting key procedures for the organization. Doing this effectively produces a detailed and shareable playbook that may be picked up and executed by team members, regardless of their role. The goal of this playbook is so that anyone can pick it up and learn to execute essential key functions of the organization without having a training or skill gap. 

If you and your team have not already invested time into creating this playbook, do not worry, you are not alone. However, we strongly advocate that you develop a plan and execute on creating this document. To help make this an actionable priority for your team, consider including this as a goal for your team members to complete within the next quarter. An effective way of determining if the documentation is accurate is for team members to exchange responsibility for executing activities, leveraging the documentation that has been created.  The peer review will go a long way toward creating an environment of collaboration and aid in standardizing the team’s approach toward documenting key processes and procedures.   The net result is a detailed guide from which to train new associates in the event of changes in the future.

Naturally, as your business evolves, so too will the procedures that have been documented. With that in mind, consider how frequently it makes sense to update those procedure manuals and include that as a regular activity for your team members to complete. By investing the time and work on the front end, you will allow your teams more breathing room when having to manage through change. 

4. Foster a Culture of Open Communication

Fostering a culture of open communication is one of the most essential factors in preparing for and dealing with personnel changes. As we all strive to grow and progress in our companies, we know that working towards progress means that we must go through change and there are times when this change causes the makeup of your team to shift. 

There are times when your teams may fluctuate due to the needs of the business. At other times, the needs and desires of your team members may lead them to seek out career opportunities either internal or external to your organization. In either case, the change taking place in your organization requires that your leaders adapt and manage through this change. 

When a culture of open and honest communication exists within an organization, team members feel more comfortable expressing themselves and their true goals and needs. When team members are able to openly share their goals and needs, your leaders are better able to authentically engage in preparing those members for continued growth within or outside of the organization.  

Open communication helps to intercept the discontentment of team members and gives you the gift of time – the time needed to prepare for the change. During this time, you will have the opportunity to identify others within the organization that are capable of fulfilling the role that will become vacant. Or you can use this time to proactively recruit individuals from outside the organization to become future members of your team – a proactive approach as opposed to a reactive one.

Regardless of your choice, it is essential to communicate with your team members about the departure of a key team member,  including why they are leaving and what impact it will have on the team. 

This communication can help reduce uncertainty and anxiety among team members and build trust and confidence in your leadership. Leaders should be transparent about the reasons for the departure, how it will be managed, and what steps are being taken to mitigate the impact of the loss. Being able to thoroughly answer questions about the change is also important in helping your remaining team members feel less anxious about the loss. 

Communicate openly with the departing team members. This communication can help reduce the risk of negative feedback on your team and organization as a whole. 

When team members leave, express gratitude for their contributions, wish them well in their future endeavors, and ask for feedback on what the organization can do to improve its retention rates.

Human Capital Changes

5. Implement an Employee Retention Strategy

Even though you are preparing your team to manage through change, doing so does not need to be daunting. If you find that team members are seeking opportunities outside of your organization, know that you are fully capable and able to improve their experiences within the company to retain them as members of the organization. 

One of the best ways to retain team members is to develop a comprehensive strategy that prioritizes creating a positive work environment for all to thrive. This could mean that team members are offered competitive compensation and benefits that go above and beyond industry standards. There’s also the option to invest in opportunities for career advancement and professional development of team members, showing that you see them as long-term assets to the organization and overall industry. You can also recognize and reward team member contributions, fostering a sense of community and belonging among team members.

To develop an effective employee retention strategy, it is essential to conduct regular employee surveys to assess job satisfaction, identify improvement areas, and track retention rate changes over time. 

Based on the results of these surveys, organizations can make targeted improvements to their retention strategies, such as offering more flexible work arrangements, providing better training and development opportunities, or implementing a recognition and rewards program.


Managing through human capital changes can be a challenge for any organization – whether the change is internal due to a team member being pulled into another project or it’s external due to members seeking outside opportunities. In either scenario, by implementing best practices such as developing a succession plan, cross-training team members, maintaining a library of processes and procedures, fostering a culture of open communication, and implementing an employee retention strategy, organizations can better prepare for and manage changes in their workforce. 

These practices not only help reduce the impact of human capital changes, but can also help organizations create a more positive work environment, improve employee morale, and increase productivity and profitability for the longevity of the organization. 

Next time your organization is supporting the launch of a new community initiative requiring a valued resource to leave the team or another situation where there’s a shift in your human capital, these best practices can help your team members have a more positive outlook and clarity on their roles. After all, it’s a win-win for employees and organizations to have a road map to effectively navigate through these changes while staying productive and making daily contributions to growth. 

Also read: Recruiting Challenges, Company Change: When Hiring an Interim Project Professional Makes Sense


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