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Dear Workforce How Do We Capitalize--and Recognize--Intellectual Capital

I have a highly motivated worker who helps other people out whenever he can. He often contributes in ways that go well beyond his job description, simply because he possesses broad knowledge and experience. On certain occasions, however, the very people whom he has helped wind up taking credit from management for solving the problem, without duly giving him credit. I’m concerned this may be a growing problem in our organization and could lead valuable contributors to defect. How could we act swiftly to address this situation?
September 7, 2011
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Related Topics: Career Development, Employee Career Development, Strategic Planning, Dear Workforce
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Dear Discouraged:

You clearly have a few issues to consider here that revolve around recognizing the individual's problem-solving skills and willingness to contribute his expertise.

The first step is getting the right stakeholders together to discuss the issue. This group should involve some key business leaders or managers, as well as a human resources partner. Use this situation to review your organization's overall ability to manage and effectively share employees' knowledge and expertise. Doing so positions the conversation in a positive light and avoids pointing fingers at managers who fail to recognize an individual's contributions.

Positioning the conversation in this light is positive versus pointing out the failure of some mangers and leaders to recognize an individual's valued contributions.

Questions to address to develop a solution

  1. Does the organization currently have formal or informally designated subject matter experts (SMEs) whom people rely on as "go to" players for deep technical expertise?

  2. If there is no formal program or designation of SMEs, consider this: Is your organization at risk in terms of highly qualified experts leaving the business, taking with them valued knowledge that is difficult to replace?

  3. Which types of technical knowledge and expertise are most highly valued? Who has this knowledge and how often does the organization rely on it?

  4. Is it imperative that you designate SMEs/technical experts in key areas, functions and levels across the business?

  5. Does your employee competency model reference deep technical expertise—and willingness to share it—as a valued behavior? If not, can this be added so that contributions are recognized in the performance management process, for example?

  6. How do you foster improved collaboration and knowledge sharing through recognition?

  7. What are the required leadership behaviors to support a collaborative environment and recognize effort and valuable contributions?

Finally, it should be stated that recognition for individuals who play the technical-expert role (as described in the question) doesn't necessarily saddle your organization with financial or other costs. Simple recognition tools (such as designating the individual as an SME, inviting him/her to coach others, or inviting the employee to present their ideas or solution to company leadership) go a long way to ensuring the person doesn't walk to a competitor—and take expertise your organization relies on to make important decisions.

SOURCE: Garrett Sheridan, managing partner, Axiom Consulting Partners, Chicago, June 18, 2008.

LEARN MORE: Please read about strategies on formalizing approaches to cross-training for key employees.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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