How to retain knowledge within the company

How to retain knowledge within the company

June 16, 2021

Employee turnover is a hurdle for managers. Not only can it be challenging to find a replacement for proficient workers, but it is also hard to retain all the knowledge they acquired working on specific subjects through the years. According to Liebowitz's research, knowledge loss often occurs when employees leave a company - whether through retirement, job rotation, or layoffs.
This knowledge loss impacts the company's capabilities: Jennex (2014) explains that NASA could not go back to the moon because they had lost precious information on how to build spaceships after the retirement and death of some precious workers. This sadly evidences that competitive advantage is impacted by the loss of workers' implicit knowledge built within the company.
On top of this, there is too little research on the type of knowledge lost when employees leave the company.
Because safeguarding your company's competitive advantage is a priority, this article aims at helping you to take the necessary steps towards securing your company's knowledge.

Build and entertain a knowledge-sharing company culture

Taking action against something you don't know is meaningless. This is why it is crucial for your company to make qualitative research on what knowledge workers need to perform and thrive:

  • Surveys are reliable and easy to use. They can help you collect information on what your employees consider to be the most important pieces of knowledge they have acquired throughout their work experience. Because this perception can evolve depending on the seniority level or the number of years spent in the company, you can survey the matter once a year in order to track changes and understand what triggers them.
  • Define knowledge as a performance KPI Managers use various KPIs to evaluate employee's performance. However, it often does not integrate the knowledge workers have to gain to reach their objectives. By using 'gained knowledge' as a KPI, managers can track what knowledge is needed to perform each task and workers can better track their growth within the company. This indicator can be quantified by assessing the amount of time spent on new topics during a given year compared to the previous year.

Establish a strategy for knowledge sharing

  • Onboarding A thorough onboarding process can help retaining knowledge within the company. One of the most effective ways to do so is to facilitate the transition between the employee who is leaving and its successor. By creating an 'onboarding pack' on Spot or Trello - with all the important documents to read before starting the new position - the new hire will quickly get a hold of the process in the company. By adding a clear to-do list and regular feedback meeting, both the new hire and the manager will gain time and productivity! Additionally, implementing flexible working hours for the departing worker during the last couple of weeks to help to integrate the outboarding process into his/her schedule would make things run more smoothly. Finally, creating incentives based on the success of the onboarding process (such as bonuses) can motivate workers to be as comprehensive as possible during this process.
  • Mentoring The system of mentoring helps to provide cross-training to workers within the company. On one hand, the mentor can teach their mentee the tacit and explicit knowledge learned through the years. On the other hand, the mentee can help the mentor on subjects they are less educated on.
  • Knowledge database & tools Implementing an efficient knowledge-sharing strategy is crucial to organize the company's workspace (link article). On top of that, collaboration and knowledge management tools such as Spot are integrated with your internal tools (Drive, Slack, Notion, Intercom, etc.) and facilitate searching throughout all these tools in a single search. Because knowledge is stored within Spot for the next person to find, the risk of losing knowledge due to employee turnover is incredibly decreased.

Feedback and strategy monitoring

It is essential to monitor how each step is actually integrated into the company's processes. If some steps are given little focus or even missed, employee feedback can explain why it is not adapted to the specific need of the team or company.

Jennex, M. (2014), “A proposed method for assessing knowledge loss risk with departing personnel”, VINE: The Journal of Information and Knowledge Management Systems, Vol. 44 No. 2, pp. 185-209.
Leibowitz, J. (2009), Knowledge Retention: Strategies and Solutions, Taylor & Francis/CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL

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