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32 Examples of Key Employees

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Key employees, or key personnel, are employees who have unique talents, knowledge or relationships such that their prolonged absence or exit is likely to cause substantive business disruptions or losses. In a startup or small business, it is possible for all employees to be key. In a large organization, only a few dozen employees may be key. This isn't necessarily the executive team, as regular employees can be key and executives can often depart without business disruptions. The following are common examples of key employees.
Business Development Manager
Chief Architect
Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
Chief Information Officer (CIO)
Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)
Chief Operating Officer (COO)
Chief Risk Officer (CRO)
Chief Technology Officer (CTO)
Controller
Creative Director
Customer Advocates (e.g. Head of Customer Success)
Customer Service Manager
Engineering Manager
General Counsel
Head of HR
Head of Recruiting
Head of Sales
Internal Auditor / Audit Manager
Managing Partner
Operations Manager
Product Designer
Product Manager
Research Director
Researcher
Revenue Manager
Salesperson
Software Architect
Software Developer
Strategy Manager
Technology Specialist
Key employee shouldn't be confused with authority. For example, the Head of HR may have much authority but a firm may continue to execute without them if there are 10 directors in HR who will do just as well in their role.
Key employee shouldn't be confused with key role. A key role is a position that is important to your strategy, revenue or operations. In some cases, a key role can be filled by many people such that the employee in this role isn't necessarily key. For example, a firm may not function without a Head of Sales Operations. However, the person in that role may be simply following a well defined process.
Key employees can be defined by unusual levels of performance in an important role. For example, a creative director who originated product ideas that produced blockbuster sales.
Relationships can create key employees. For example, a recruiter with strong relationships at several key universities such that they have an edge over the competition.
Obscure situational knowledge can create key employees. For example, a technical specialist who is the only one who knows how to maintain a legacy system that is critical to your operations.
In some cases a combination of talent and productivity makes someone a key employee. This is especially true in domains such as software development where talent vastly improves productivity and quality. In some cases, a star developer produces more functionality at higher quality than hundreds of regular developers such that their productivity is several magnitudes higher than average.
Overview: Key Employees
Type
Definition
Employees who have unique talents, knowledge or relationships such that their prolonged absence or exit is likely to cause substantive business disruptions or losses.
Also Known As
Key Personnel
Not To Be Confused With
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