How to Stop the Negative Impacts of Talent Dependency

itamar-gero.png  Founder and CEO, SEOReseller

  WWS contributor


Whether it is a charismatic salesperson or an innovative marketing person who becomes the key talent, you should manage your workforce properly to avoid potential dangers of talent dependency.


You’ve probably experienced massive delays, major setbacks, or sudden drops in productivity at least once in running your business. Part of preventing such problems from happening again is determining what caused them.

Did your bakery’s delivery trucks run into terrible traffic? Did your clothing boutique upset its best customer? Or, did your local SEO company lose its best analyst?

Although all of these cause issues with your company’s productivity, the last one happens because your company relied too much on one person. This is called talent dependency, and it’s a serious stumbling block for businesses of all sizes.


What is Talent Dependency?


Talent dependency, also known as key person dependency, refers to a situation where your company or segments of your company rely too much on one person. This excessive dependency can have dire repercussions for your business, especially if this key person decides to leave your organization or becomes otherwise indisposed.

Removing this person from your company would be like removing the keystone in an archway, which is problematic at best; disastrous at worse.


Symptoms of Key Person Dependency


There are a few simple ways to tell if your organization is dealing with talent dependency. Here are some sure-fire symptoms that someone is a key person:

  • People automatically address their questions and seek advice from one person. This person is automatically pointed out to new members as their best source of training or information. Even older members of your staff rely on this person for ideas and advice.
  • During a business emergency, only one person has the knowledge or experience to solve the issue. Their importance is such that their absence or presence can determine the future of your company in a crisis.
  • There is a single “go-to” person, always in the middle of presenting solutions only they know and sharing information only they have access to.

If you’ve noticed these things happening in your organization, then you have a talent dependency problem.



Dangers of Talent Dependency


Talent dependency can sprout anywhere and manifest in anyone in your company. Maybe it is a charismatic salesperson for your online store, an SEO consultant or an innovative pastry chef in your café who can all become the source of key person dependency.

Critical knowledge refers to information about your company or its processes that is necessary for it to perform or retain an advantage over competitors. Tacit knowledge, on the other hand, refers to data and information that can only be found inside someone’s mind.

It’s the accumulation of information and instinct that someone develops over time that makes them effective in their job. So long as only one person has tacit critical knowledge, they are poised to become key persons.

When a key person departs, it could cause the following issues:

  • Unsolved problems: Without their advice and know-how, problems can linger.
  • Lost knowledge: Since only they knew certain things, the remaining employees are bereft of this information.
  • Decreased productivity or profitability: A combination of these could spell financial difficulties for your business.
  • Lowered morale: Aside from their value in production, other employees may be disheartened by a key person’s departure and feel adrift.
  • Confusion about processes: This is part of the knowledge lost in a key person’s departure and the key person is likely in a management or executive position.
  • Replacement issues: Because of their unique skills and qualifications, replacing a key person can be a difficult task.

Large companies can suffer these effects just as much as smaller companies. For example, automotive and energy company Tesla has suffered from the erratic behavior of its CEO, Elon Musk. Executives are prone to becoming key persons because of their authority within the company and level of expertise.

But smaller companies can’t bounce back from major setbacks as quickly as their larger counterparts. Although a single delayed shipment because of talent dependency would be a nuisance for a multinational corporation, the same problem could be ruinous to the finances of a small business.

What can you do to prevent talent dependency from ruining your company?


Avoiding the Dangers of Talent Dependency


By taking the following advice, you may be able to mitigate the damage that talent dependency can wreak on your business. If you implement enough of these tips in advance, you may prevent talent dependency from taking root in your organization at all.


  1. Invest in improving real-time communication channels between employees. This encourages employees to share information and lowers the chances that someone has information no one else has. Consider programs that have chat services and file-sharing capabilities and other amenities, making information distribution easier than ever.
  2. Pinpoint and record information critical to the operation of your business. Does your bakery have a secret recipe? Do you employ a cost-efficient production method? Rather than entrust this vital knowledge to one person, record it and make sure that anyone who needs to know this critical information can access its details.
  3. Implement cross-training programs. This takes steps to make sure there are no indispensable experts in your organization. Do your best to give everyone at least the basics of another department and encourage employees to take up training for fields other than their own, removing the reliance on elite employees.
  4. Always prepare alternatives. Backup plans, redundant procedures, and even extra personnel. Make sure that at least one other person in your employee roster can fulfill the duties and obligation of another. Encourage talented employees to share the secrets to their success with their peers.
  5. Implement mandatory leaves for employees. This can show you if an employee is a key person and how well your business functions without them. Mandatory leaves force their colleagues to look for other knowledge sources and solutions in their absence.
  6. Outsource Services. This is one way to avoid talent dependency. If you need someone to manage your company’s social media, prepare reports or simple digital marketing tasks, hire a virtual assistant. Same if you’re a real estate business wanting to amp up your website’s performance, then partner with a real estate SEO expert.

Essential personnel aren’t always a disadvantage for the business. A brilliant employee can be the one who discovers something new or inspires others to greater productivity. Key personnel only become a problem when they don’t want or fail to share what makes them important to other employees.

Nurturing a company culture that helps employees raise each other up can go a long way in preventing your business from depending on one person. By making your organization a collaborative effort, you ensure that everyone on your roster is working together toward a better tomorrow.

Itamar Gero is the founder and CEO of, a white label digital marketing solutions provider that empowers agencies-and their local business clientele-all over the world. He has over 20 years of experience in Web Development and Digital Marketing and is a programmer at heart. Follow him on Twitter @ItamarGero.