If not, what exactly do you get paid for?

Of course you get paid for what you know, right? What else is there? Let me start at the beginning. It happened when my company committed to creating operation manuals that detailed more than just how the vacation policy worked or how to handle jury duty. Rather, the manuals spelled out the way in which we were to actually do work in every department in our company.

I thought everyone would be thrilled. Not so! Not everyone at the company was willing to share what they knew. The reason I came to learn was they were more concerned with what was unlovingly called “J.S.” or “job security.”

One of my top managers was exceedingly slow at getting me the procedures and the policies for all the activities in his department. When I finally realized he was stalling and had no desire to help document the processes, I finally put to words what I had always felt to this point.

“If you’re planning to keep what you know to yourself, I’d just as soon let you go and struggle for awhile while I learn it on my own,” I told him. “It’s your choice. But know this: I’m no longer willing to be a hostage at my own company. So either work with me and empower others or pack up.”

He chose to open up and help me instead of fight me.

Frankly, I should have paid more attention to addressing what was in it for them to help me share their knowledge with others. And until you address your employees’ WIIFM (What’s In It For Me), don’t expect a lot of help from your staff when it comes to sharing what they know with new and current staff.

Don’t believe me?

I warned one of my first clients to customize my operation manuals with the following: “Be aware that many of your top people may not be so willing to put to paper the knowledge they have locked up in their heads. That’s why you need to be ready for it and be proactive about the reasons they should help you.”

My client assured me that this wouldn’t be a problem at his company.

A week later I got a call and this is what he said: “I’m astounded at the resistance by some key individuals. But here’s what I told them in private conversations, ‘You don’t get paid for what you know. You get paid for what you do and how well you help others under your supervision perform to the best of their ability. Either help me with these manuals or you can find your way to the door. It’s your choice.’”

“Well, what’s happened since then?” I asked.

“They’ve wholeheartedly begun spearheading the effort to document our systems,” he said. “And you will find that you’ll have all the cooperation you need from my crew. If not, tell me and they won’t be here for long.”

Think people at your company are different? They’re not. Those who know see little profit in helping others to their hard-earned know-how. And if you were them, you’d probably do the same.

More Than A Job

It doesn’t have to be a take-it-or-leave-it approach if you are proactive about getting their buy-in to help one another at the beginning. One of the keys is to let them know that your company is growing and needs to bring on new people. Then, remind them that your company is all about building a career, not just filling a job.

To help, create a detailed organizational chart that lays out the boxes where they are today and where they can go tomorrow. It doesn’t matter if you are a big or a small company. The boxes on the chart are pretty much the same.

The bad news for small companies is that the owner’s name is in too many of them. The good news is that there is plenty of opportunity for others to earn the chance to fill that box as you grow. But they can’t move along until you build the solid foundation and document the way your company works today.

Some companies I’ve worked with have been proactive about getting the cooperation they desire by making it a prerequisite to move up the chart by working on the manuals and participating in training classes. Other companies I worked with have paid an incentive bonus for helping.

Once you create a culture that lets everyone know that their true “J.S.” comes from what they do and how they help others be effective, the culture changes for the better.

You will find they love learning and participating in a company that is getting better and growing. Do this and you’ll become the employer of choice.