Crazy theory: sending your employees to work for the competition can actually help your company grow. I didn't believe it either, at first -- but when an entrepreneur buddy approached me with this idea, I had to pay attention.
Earlier this year, Ken Sim (co-founder of Nurse Next Door) asked me if his company could loan us an employee for three months -- and they would continue to pay her salary. I had two questions: why would he want to do this, and if he was willing to give this employee up, what would she be like?
Ken assured me that Kelly was one of their best, and explained the reasoning behind the proposition: to prepare for their company's growth, he and Cathy Thorpe (Nurse Next Door's President and CEO) wanted to explore different ways to provide their employees with professional development opportunities. Knowing that O2E Brands is a $250M company that has already achieved large-scale growth in franchising, Ken thought we were the perfect organization to take Kelly under its wing. Of course, we welcomed Kelly to our team with open arms.
His off-the-wall plan has turned out to be an innovative professional development strategy that I believe more companies should adopt. It's a non-traditional approach to leadership and professional development that goes beyond conferences and coursework; it also fosters mutual trust between employee and employer. Yes, there is a risk that your employee will leave your company -- but there's also a huge learning and growth opportunity for everyone involved. Here's what we all stand to gain from a "bungee" program.
The Bigger Bungee Program, With Better Results
First introduced by Google, a bungee program enables employees to temporarily test a role in a different department. It's a way for people to challenge themselves and explore a new career path without leaving the company. Ryan Holmes has implemented a similar "stretch" program at Hootsuite. At O2E Brands, we regularly allow staff to try out internal job openings they might be interested in.
Nurse Next Door, however, has taken the bungee concept further. Not only did they enable Kelly to try out a new internal role or attend a training course -- they facilitated her learning and development at an entirely new company.
We all recognized that everyone would benefit from this arrangement: Kelly got to explore a new opportunity, learn new skills and shared with us some of the interesting things Nurse Next Door was doing from an HR perspective. Nurse Next Door established itself as an innovative learning organization, and got to absorb Kelly's knowledge upon her return.
For us, bringing Kelly onto our team inspired a new way of thinking. We're now exploring how we can make this an accessible program for all of our employees, too.
Why You Should Try a Trust Fall With Your Competition
When we were in the process of setting up our first call center, we explored a similar arrangement. We wanted to learn from the best in customer service, so we asked WestJet if we could send our team to learn from their expertise. The results were game-changing: our people came back prepped and ready to implement their learning.
With a program like this, it's important to adopt a mindset of transparency. When you open yourself up -- by inviting competitors in or setting employees free -- you can't expect anything in return. You have to trust and have faith that everything will work out for the best.
That's what makes a bungee program so powerful: it makes employees feel valued for their contributions, as well as supported in their pursuit of their career goals. Transparency with your competitors also establishes a give-and-take relationship where good deeds come back around.
Investing in People is Always Good Policy
At O2E Brands, our motto is "It's All About People." We're proud of our employees' tenacity and hunger to always be learning. Like Nurse Next Door, we strive to support their growth and ambition in whatever way we can. Above all else, a bungee program is an investment in your company's and employees' futures.
It worked for Nurse Next Door: it was a way to offer a valuable employee an opportunity for professional development, while also providing the company with knowledge for how to scale their business. Kelly's learnings were vast and she got to take an in-depth look at our approach to talent acquisition. She left our company feeling more equipped to prepare Nurse Next Door for what is to come.