This is the last of a four-part series of articles on developing a self-running company. In the last post I shared strategy to develop the leadership skills of your mid-managers. By involving them in strategic planning, you prepare your company to run in your absence even during a crisis.
Turn Line Workers into Managers
But how do your line workers ascend? Undoubtedly you have senior people without any formal managerial responsibility; these are the folks who know the ins and the outs of your organization and keep it running smoothly. (Think Joan on AMC’s “Mad Men.”)
Tenured employees who top out in pay and aren’t challenged are at risk. These are people who would be difficult, if not impossible, to replace. If they feel they’re in a dead-end place they might leave.
You could fix this by offering them upward mobility. However, because of the structure of your organization and their particular role, they’re unpromotable. While you recognize their value, they’re stuck where they are. So what can you do to challenge these key employees and prevent losing them?
Here’s a method that gives line employees leadership responsibility while also providing these benefits:
- increased productivity
- inexpensive labor
- cloning irreplaceable employees
- an extended probation process for new employees to determine cultural and skills fit within the organization
Can you guess what it is? An intern program!
Work with the local University
By working with the career center of a college, you can design internships for students in undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Properly setup and monitored, you can get these above benefits and more.
Assign each new intern to a senior line employee you want to challenge. The seasoned vet gets an extra role and becomes a manager by virtue of their supervision of the intern.
The company gets the productivity of an extra employee at a fraction of the cost, and this intern gets to learn your business. Your labor output increases and you can assess how well a potential employee fits into your organization and whether they could do that job.
Some interns will be a poor fit, but don’t fret. Many employees don’t work out either. Unlike employees however, interns don’t need the overhead and headache of hiring and firing a new employee.
A properly executed intern program can be tremendously valuable. Recall the problems and costs when your last employee departed. The initial training costs, wages and payroll costs, the incidental issues, equipment… all down the drain. You probably worried about the impact on sympathetic coworkers. Maybe you had to do damage control. It may even have become a legal issue.
With interns, you avoid these expenses and you don’t need to worry about the effect on coworkers. Interns are temporary; if they don’t work out, end the internship. Done properly, you will invest only time. Regardless of outcome, your senior employee will reap the valuable experience of managing and training the intern.
Extend a Job Offer to a Promising Intern
When one of your interns proves an exceptionally good candidate, you can offer them a place upon graduation. Since they already know the job, they’ll ramp up quickly and require less supervision. Their chance of retention is higher than a new employee who hasn’t enjoyed a trial period.
You already know they’re a cultural fit and they’ll have a few friends at the company. They’ll probably already know their direct supervisor. And since a poor relationship with the boss is the top reason an employee leaves you have a better chance of holding onto them.
Bonus: since your new hire interned under a seasoned employee with a valuable and possibly critical skill set, you’ll have taken a giant step forward to shoring up that gap. If you had the foresight to instruct your grizzled vet to train the intern to do their job, you have another employee on their way to adding that skill to their toolkit.
There’s a lot more to structuring a successful internship program – how to supervise, how to manage the project, what to stress to all parties, how to make sure your line workers are enthusiastic and competent to manage interns, how to measure results, etc. It’s way too much for this short article. The author is available for consulting on how to best carry out this strategic advantage. The benefits far outweighs the cost. For more help, feel free to contact the author.
After finishing this series you now have the tools necessary to set up your company to become self-running. Here are the steps we discussed:
- You’re hiring and keeping the right people
- Your new managers are strategically delegating
- Grooming top-level managers for succession
- Key employees want to stay with the company
This is the way to set up a perpetual business without demanding your continued presence. Now you can take that trip around the world, right?
Write in the comments and tell me what you think. Does your company use interns? What is your experience?
Next I’ll show you a novel way to reach an impossible-to-reach contact at a large company. I’m talking highly unattainable executives the likes of Warren Buffet, George Soros, Steve Jobs (well, maybe not him anymore.) In fact, I used this technique to reach staff at Warren Buffet’s Berkshire-Hathaway Corporation. It’s a fantastic skill from Selling to VITO by Anthony Parinello and I’ve added a few tweaks. Until then,
profitable business All!