Below is an excerpt from a November 13, 2015, article appearing in the Open Forum on americanexpress.com and written by freelance journalist Geoff Williams. He has some suggestions on how to duplicate your best employees. I know that the CEO members in my two peer advisory groups are frequently sharing how they wish they could have a number of employees like…fill in the blank. I’m sure you have this feeling as well. What resonates with you as you read the suggestions below? What are you currently doing? What should you start?
Do you have an amazing, incredible employee who stands out from the rest of your staff? You may have a problem.
It doesn’t sound like a problem, of course. You wanted to hire someone incredible, and you did. But if you’ve ever wondered what you would do without them, you can start to see your potential crisis. If you have an employee you consider virtually indispensable, and that employee quits or retires, you don’t want to be in a position of having your company crumble around you.
In other words, you should be doing everything you can to clone your employee.
If you’re trying to clone your best hire, here are some tips.
Have your best employees train new employees.
You might feel you should do all the training, or that a middle-range or lesser performing employee should be breaking in someone new, while the best employees keep the company running.
But that would be a huge mistake, claims Kathy Stokes, who co-owns a PostNet franchise in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, with her husband, Terry.
“You want to create a culture in your business where everyone is encouraged to have good staff behaviors,” Stokes says, adding that she has found that “as long as I have those one or two rockstars who get it, and really understand what the business is about, then we can always train the new ones coming in.”
Let the subpar employees go.
Obviously, you should give employees a chance, and you should want a culture where people can be free to make the occasional mistake without fear of reprisal.
“Working and business should be fun. Many employees are not being paid enough, but they will stick around a quality work environment,” says Bruce Brown, who owns Brown Marketing Consulting and is a consultant in Los Angeles specializing in sales training.
But at the same time, if some of your employees turn out to be hateful and are bringing down the business with their negativity or poor performance, it’s important to not let them hang on for too long.
“If you allow sour grapes into the environment and people who don’t follow the company’s culture, then that’s what the new employees will learn. Pretty soon, you’ll have a new culture, one that you don’t necessarily want,” Stokes says.
Be careful about singling out your star employee.
It’s one thing if you have a small staff and your model employee has been around for years. They’re going to expect that longtime employee to be, for lack of a better phrase, “teacher’s pet.” But if your star employee hasn’t been around awhile, holding that person up as someone to emulate can backfire.
“My suggestion is, don’t hold one employee up as a model. That will cause resentments and break down team relationships,” says Kelly Drake, who owns Resolve, a conflict and workplace mediation company in Charleston, South Carolina.
Jonathan Ceballos, human resources director at USB Memory Direct, a Cooper City, Florida-based company that creates custom USB flash drives and has 23 employees, agrees that you should tread carefully here. He explains that one of the company’s star employees now trains the new hires, but before she did, Ceballos made sure everyone knew the employee was going to go through her own training program.
“Since she herself had to go through our training on how to train others, it made it feel like everyone was on the same boat and so we also never ran into any employee resentment problems,” he says.
Michael Lastoria, CEO of &Pizza, which has 11 restaurants in the Washington, DC, area, recommends that if your star employee is training other staff, they use the word, “we,” not “I.”
The word “we,” Lastoria says, “encourages camaraderie among the tribe and helps drive success by making it about the shop and not the individual.”
If you have a fairly large and unmotivated staff, Brown agrees there can be a danger in highlighting someone as the best and making everyone resent their fellow coworker—but not if you do it in a way that rewards everyone for following your model employee. In other words, make the focus on rewarding good behavior and work habits, rather than on one employee being more skilled than the others.
“I always suggest ‘bribes’ of some sort,” Brown says. That could mean an extra day off with pay, a gift card or a free lunch of somebody’s choice every Friday for a month, “or any number of possible pay-offs.
Keep your star employee happy.
You could find that your star employee resents everyone else, or you, if you’re constantly rewarding everyone else. Wagner at PostNet has “been here 18 years. She can work whatever hours she wants,” Stokes says. “If she needs time off, she gets it. She works remotely when she wants to. Now that she has kids in middle school, that helps greatly with her.”
Lastoria agrees that you should give back to the employees giving their all to your company. He says that particularly when it comes to their employees who demonstrate a stellar work ethic, he and his leadership team “are constantly listening to feedback and doing what we can to encourage their growth and development.”