Building and Maintaining IP with the Modern Workforce
It’s expected that when an employee leaves a firm, they return all company property. Computers, smartphones, cars – they all have to come back. But what about non-physical company assets like intellectual property (IP)?
It’s a concern that’s becoming increasingly troublesome as the majority of the working population shift from Gen-X to Gen-Y. If you’re a business owner, this situation is no-doubt familiar: bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, a recent grad jumps at the opportunity to learn as much as they can in an entry-level position. Over time their industry knowledge and skill sets grow as they learn the ins and outs of the business and build relationships with team members and clients. But a couple of years down the track, as Millennials are renowned to do, they decide to move on, taking their knowledge with them and leaving you with an IP gap.
Building IP is a slow process, but one that is necessary to give businesses a competitive advantage to succeed. Because of this, when staff leave, the security of an organisation’s IP can be called into question. However, there are a few processes companies can adopt to mitigate the risk of staff departures and safely maintain IP within an organisation.
Keep employees productive and trained
Maintaining IP is about more than asking employees to keep trade secrets. It’s also about keeping your current staff productive with ongoing learning opportunities and feedback to ensure when a team member does leave, the knowledge gap is minimised.
Employee productivity can be plotted on a chart known as the productivity curve. It is a given that employees become more productive as they progress through training and get a better handle on the requirements of their job. However, once all the requirements of a role are learned, staff productivity plateaus indicating further training is required to introduce additional tasks and increase productivity in a new area. This constant monitoring and workforce development ensures staff are continuously moving along the productivity curve so IP is shared throughout the company and there is a natural progression of staff to slot in to vacant positions when they arise.
To complement all training and development opportunities, staff should also be encouraged to document their processes. This way, if an employee moves on or their role requirements change, whoever takes over these tasks has a step-by-step guide to follow, which will maintain process consistency and decrease learning time and productivity loss.
Encourage staff to stay by engaging them with growth opportunities that align with their career goals
Ultimately, the easiest way to maintain IP within a business is to retain your staff. Whilst this is easier said than done, understanding the motivations and career aspirations of employees is a good place to start.
Employee engagement should be a priority from day one, starting with an effective onboarding programme. According to Aberdeen Group, a new employee’s decision to stay with a company is made within the first six months of employment. Because of this, it’s incredibly important to make a good, lasting impression. Minimising the impact of the learning curve with development opportunities early on in an individual’s employment will increase their productivity and confidence.
By providing growth opportunities that align with the career goals of high-performing staff, you’re more likely to increase employee engagement and show talent you believe in their potential to succeed.
For more on how to increase staff productivity and engagement to build and maintain your IP, download our eBook Shifting the Employee Productivity Curve with Smart Talent Management Strategies.