7 Tips to Improve Knowledge Retention
...and why it's important in a downsliding economy
January 20, 2009
(and why it’s important in a downsliding economy)
When you’re thinking about surviving in the current economy, you are probably not thinking about retaining the knowledge of key workers, but the two go hand-in-hand. No two people possess the exact same knowledge. If you have two VPs of Sales and you have to let one of them go, how do you capture the knowledge held by that person? If you have to halve your IT department, you don’t want to also halve the knowledge held by that department. How will you capture the knowledge of the departing employees?
Lost knowledge can be expensive to recapture, and it can take years. Tacit knowledge in particular may never be retrieved once it is gone. A VP of sales may know the quirks or specific needs of certain clients; a chemist may know to expect a certain color or viscosity of a compound before it is at the peak of its effectiveness; an engineer just “feels” when a mechanism is assembled properly.
The Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) found in a 2008 survey that while most companies believe knowledge retention is important, only a small percentage of companies have a strategy in place.
Companies use various strategies to help them retain knowledge when employees retire, separate, or are lost due to layoffs or downsizing. Strategies will differ depending on industry, size of organization and a number of other factors. Here are some strategies that have proven effective for various companies:
1. Social networking tools can cut through the chaos of information on the internet and improve the way workers share knowledge. One 2008 survey found that 40% of large companies (those with 10,000 or more employees) used social networking to tap the knowledge of their workers. Smaller companies may be slower to adopt this practice. Social networking can reach people beyond the score of a company newsletter or a mass email and it allows workers to share information in real time. And its scope reaches beyond the company, so workers can network with peers anywhere in the world.
2. Intranet. An intranet, such as a wiki or blogs, is used by workers within a company to share knowledge and information. This is especially effective in companies with facilities in diverse locations. Workers performing the same function thousands of miles apart are given the capacity to share valuable information and best practices.