What is “Company Experience”?

One of the corporate brochures of the company I work for is soon to be edited, and while reading the texts, I decided to post a separate topic about company experience.

If your company has at least a 5-year history, you are certainly proud of the experience you have gained and use it as a competitive advantage. However, have you thought about the meaning of this cliché?

In fact, company experience means the experience of particular people!

Someone might argue now that companies gather and keep valuable and results-proven methodologies, technologies, policies, experimental results etc. Yes, this is true, but again real people have to analyze the accumulated knowledge, to acquire and apply it, and if these people don’t have the necessary experience in the particular area, the positive result is doubtful…

If you appreciate company experience, here are some ideas to think about:

1. Experienced people should be protected as a valuable company asset.

If you run a big company, don’t leave the task of identifying and retaining the employees with valuable experience only to the HR or the Line Managers. It is your task to personally know as many as you can of the experienced and talented people, and to organize and monitor the HR specialists’ and the Line Managers’ work so that you could ensure maximum life and optimum environment for the realization of the experienced people’s potential.

If you run a small or middle-sized company, all the efforts for the attraction and retention of experienced people should be yours. It is true that this would be another “monkey on your shoulder” (the whole concept is described in “The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey” by Kenneth Blanchard) but people are those who do the tasks and I wouldn’t suggest that you ignore this fact and concentrate mainly on customers, providers, finances and relations with the public administration.

The belief that “There are no irreplaceable employees ” is absolutely true, but no one mentions the replacement cost…

2. Experienced people should be stimulated (in fact elegantly obliged) to share their experience so that there is continuity of knowledge and skills within the company.

This would save you much trouble if a key employee with “great experience” leaves the company or this world (after all, we are all mortal).

In the past, knowledge was transferred by a well-organized system – apprentice>journeyman>master>grand master. Today, few companies in Bulgaria use this proven method. We have even gone so far as to be surprised by it – 2 days ago I accidentally attended a conversation about how “some Swiss companies” use this method and it’s “very interesting”…

Companies with a proven track record have special succession programs and don’t hire people who disagree with this system. The program includes a time-bound plan with information concerning which job occupants what knowledge should transfer, to whom, and how success of transfer will be measured.

The world we live in is full of individualists who wouldn’t share their knowledge and experience. This is not at all a bad thing, and it is their own choice. Be careful, however, if you hire such people!

3. When you sell and you want to point out your company’s experience, describe in greater details the experience of particular employees.

Do an experiment – when you talk about your business activities in front of customers and partners, present some particular employees with their actual skills and experience and compare the effect to a “company experience” presentation. I bet you’ll attract much greater interest and respect when you speak about people. It’s even better if you mention some names (even though they might not be commonly known), because in this way the other participants in the discussion will get the notion of real people and not of some corporate fiction.

Some argue against revealing the specialists’ names with the fact that when competitors learn about your specialists they might steal them from you. I find such fears ridiculous. You cannot hide your employees from the outside world! Probably the only way of concealing who is working for you is by building a restricted town similar to the Russian ones from the socialist past of USSR.
You’d better think how to retain your valuable employees so that they would easily resist outside temptations.

4. When you want to buy and you look for an experienced supplier, ask for information about particular experienced people.

This is the opposite situation. If highly specific activities are concerned and you want to be absolutely sure that the supplier could answer your requirements and expectations, ask for the experts’ professional resumes together with outlines of the key projects they took part in, including a description of their personal role in them. Find a way to check out this information – there are dishonest companies which offer false information.

Don’t avoid newly-started companies or departments which formally “have no experience”. Here are two typical situations:
– Good specialists who have no further development opportunities in a given company decide to start their own one;
– A company decides to expand its activities and sets up a new department taking experts from other organizations.

In this case, find information about the employees’ professional experience and the company’s method of work, as well as about its reputation (unless it is a brand new one). If the outcome of this research is satisfactory, there is no reason to ignore these companies as potential suppliers.

Good luck!

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