Many long-term employees are retiring, and younger employees are more likely to job hop than past generations. In fact, Pew Research Center estimates that 10,000 baby boomers are leaving the workforce each day.
As companies lose employees, they lose knowledge that comes through experience, like which clients need a bit of TLC. Yet some companies treat this loss casually, leaving it up to chance whether or not a new hire will be able to fill the shoes of their predecessor. The fact is that employees take 70% of their knowledge with them, according to TalentWise.
Think about how that could impact productivity. But you don’t have to start from scratch — you can preserve institutional knowledge and ensure a smooth transition from one employee to the next.
1. Developing a strategy
The first step is to prepare for the inevitable. Ask employees what they think is important to maintain the day-to-day operations of the business. Performing a workforce assessment that documents and identifies critical knowledge held by existing employees is a good first step, according to a study by a New Mexico State University professor.
Then create systems that will prevent this loss. Drafting an official policy and communicating that policy to employees shows that your company values preservation of institutional knowledge.
2. Improving employee onboarding
A day or two of training for new employees won’t cut it. Yet 35% of all companies spend nothing on onboarding, according to UrbanBound.
This is an ideal time to demonstrate to new employees how to do their job well — and how it’s been done well before them. Here are some ways to incorporate institutional knowledge into your onboarding and training processes:
Mentoring is an ideal way to use current employees to show new employees the ropes. If at all possible (for example, if an employee won’t be leaving for several months), have the current employee train their successor. It’s the most direct way for a new employee to understand the reality of their job
Provide succinct materials that will help new employees. Don’t hand them the manual and expect them to absorb all that information. Instead, ask the employee leaving the position to write a page or two about important aspects of the job. That way the new employee will have current, valuable info
Hold meetings with current employees where the new employee can ask questions. Be deliberate about immersing the new employee in the company’s culture
3. Creating a repository of knowledge
Because technology has made it simple for people to collaborate on projects, it’s easy to designing a go-to location for everything about your company. Intel is one good example. The company has an internal wiki, Intelpedia. This is a one-stop shop for the company’s terms, procedures, and history.
This is an ideal way to ensure that employee knowledge doesn’t just sit on one person’s hard drive. With the era of cloud computing, employees can team up to pass on lessons to their colleagues and future employees.
You’re going to lose skilled, valuable employees. But you can mitigate that damage through preparing for their departure early and communicating their knowledge to new employees.