Thursday, January 31, 2013

Retaining Your Employees' Intellectual Capital

While it is relatively easy to calculate the value of a business's capital, determining the value of an employee's intellectual capital is at best, exceedingly difficult. It's true that most organisations have no idea how valuable their employees are and few, if any, make an effort to retain it when top performing employees leave.

It's not the standard knowledge, skills and abilities employees bring to the work place; a nurse who can take blood pressures can be replaced by any other nurse who can do the same job equally well. It's the employees whose performance is superior that needs to be examined when considering retention of intellectual capital. Those who come up with novel solutions, go the extra mile, think critically and solve problems rather than passing them onto a higher level, and those with a penchant to get the job done well.

The question whose answer has eluded researchers and managers for years is how do you retain that intellectual capital after the employees demonstrating it have departed. Here are some ideas:

Get them to document their work behaviours

By asking superior performers to document their approaches to work, you can identify their performance and often isolate the difference between what they do and what others do. If you have an organisation and methods department, these are the people you want in that department. Unfortunately, it's possible to hold back superior performers when organisational procedures are poorly designed.

Have a suggestions scheme

Having a suggestions scheme can be a great help in accessing the knowledge and ideas of high intellectual capital employees. I recall a colleague with whom I worked in the Australian Air Force. He was an electrical engineer and designed a solution that prevented above-ground bombs exploding too early or too late. A barometric switch, it could be set at a particular altitude and work. The previous system used was hit and miss. My colleague received a lovely cheque from the RAAF for his efforts.

Encouraging suggestions can help identify improvements in procedures and policies that save time and money, reduce rework and generally improve business performance. At times, even the lowest paid people in an organisation can come up with great ideas. After all, they are at the workface where everything is happening, day in and day out.

Use them training

Use your superior performers to transfer their knowledge and methodologies by training others to emulate their work, retaining their knowledge and skills within the organisation.

Any of these methods will help retain employees intellectual capital when they depart.

Do you know of any other ways we can retain employees IC? What efforts does your firm make to retain or capture intellectual capital of superior performing employees?


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