8 Knowledge Retention Strategies: Capture and Transfer Knowledge in the Workplace
In today’s fast-paced business world, it’s more important than ever to be able to capture and transfer knowledge within your organization. Whether it’s customer data, processes, or best practices, knowledge retention is a key part of any successful business.
The Great Resignation, Big Quit, and the Great Reshuffle are terms used to describe the unprecedented surge in resignations of employees voluntarily leaving their jobs for various reasons since the pandemic. Businesses of all sizes have experienced significant disruption.
Without warning, one or more key team members suddenly leave, taking vital knowledge with them. Companies that have been affected by the Great Resignation and/or Baby Boomer retirements know exactly how difficult it is to recreate or replace that knowledge. And those that did not have a knowledge management strategy to capture and transfer the knowledge of their CORE employees before leaving suffered significantly more than others.
“When highly skilled employees leave your organization, they take with them years of hard-earned, experienced-based knowledge – most of it undocumented and irreplaceable.”
—Dorothy A. Leonard
In this article, we will discuss what exactly knowledge retention is and provide several strategies that can help you capture and transfer employee knowledge in your workplace. We’ll also address some frequently asked questions about protecting the loss of business wisdom so you can begin planning how best to implement these strategies into your organization today!
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Does your organization have a knowledge management system in place to share and retain knowledge before your highly skilled employees walk out the door? If you need help with knowledge management, reach out to Orion Development Group. Our team has helped hundreds of companies capture and retain the critical knowledge of their staff over the years.
What Exactly Is Knowledge Retention
What is the capital of the United States?
If you answered “Washington, D.C.,” you stepped into the realm of knowledge retention. For individuals, knowledge retention is the ability to remember and retrieve information. You first learned the answer when you were a kid (short-term), and now it has been retained in your memory (long-term).
For businesses, knowledge retention refers to capturing, preserving, and transferring institutional wisdom. This includes anything from valuable customer data, important processes, product information, best practices, operational nuances and more.
But knowledge management isn’t just about recording information and storing it on a centralized server or in the cloud. It goes far deeper than that. Knowledge retention in the workplace is about capturing and preserving the tacit knowledge and experiences of individual employees and transferring that information to other staff members, so it isn’t lost if those employees leave.
It’s all about ensuring that knowledge remains accessible and easily transferable for ongoing use within an organization.
Benefits of Knowledge Retention in the Workplace
Imagine this scenario: You just hired someone to fill in the role that’s been open for such a long time. Come the employee’s first day, she just sits at her workstation twiddling her thumbs. She doesn’t have access to the company’s computer. She doesn’t have an email set up. She doesn’t know who to contact when she has a question.
What’s worse is that even if all these were taken care of, she doesn’t have what she needs to succeed in her job. She doesn’t know what she needs to know to get up to speed and be productive. So even if she is willing and capable, which is why you hired her, she cannot do what she does not know.
Does this sound familiar?
Without knowledge retention strategies in place, this new employee is spinning her wheels and cannot be productive. That’s why knowledge management is vital in every business.
One of the biggest benefits of effective knowledge management is increased productivity. With knowledge retention, the new employee can learn from the experiences of others. She can gain access to the right information and tools to do her job effectively without wasting time. This means she can be productive sooner and avoid costly errors that could have been avoided if there had been a system in place for transferring knowledge and experience.
It also helps existing staff members become more efficient by giving them access to the right information and resources they need to do their job. This improves overall productivity, as employees don’t have to spend time searching for the information they need or reinvent processes that someone else has already figured out.
Increased Employee Morale and Job Satisfaction
Knowledge retention also helps to boost job satisfaction. By providing employees with access to the right information and tools, it allows them to do their jobs more effectively and with greater confidence. It enables staff members to work smarter, not harder, and produces better results.
This increased sense of accomplishment can improve job satisfaction for existing staff members and make new employees more comfortable in their roles. It helps to create an environment of collaboration and teamwork, which can have a positive impact on employee morale and workplace culture.
Create a Culture of Collaboration
Knowledge sharing is often thought of as a one-way street. From experienced employee or trainer to new hire. From retiring executive to emerging leader. This is a mistake! By making knowledge retention and sharing part of the entire employee lifecycle, you can create a culture of collaboration that benefits all employees and the bottom line.
Traditional organizations often reward knowledge hoarders. It’s a perverse version of “knowledge is power.” When we promote these hoarders, we undermine collaboration. Instead, we should make it understood by all employees that we expect you to give back to the system throughout your career. Our organization will promote those who share knowledge and lift up team members. This leads to more sharing, more retention and greater business results.
Onboard New Employees Quickly
Having access to accurate, up-to-date information and resources also helps onboard new employees quickly and easily. They can get up to speed on the company’s culture, processes, policies, and procedures faster.
Imagine a new employee’s first day and producing quality output as if that person has been in the organization for a while. This is possible with a system for knowledge retention in place.
Overall, knowledge management is an essential part of any business. With the right strategies and tools in place, businesses can ensure their employees have access to the information they need to be successful and productive.
8 Strategies for Capturing, Retaining and Transferring Employee Knowledge
1. Identify What You Want to Retain
The first strategy is to identify what types of knowledge you want to retain.
Identify the jobs, roles, and departments that are key to your business. Not every job or role is created equal. Focus on the ones that are integral to your company’s success.
For example, if you’re in the business of software development, then you definitely want to retain knowledge related to coding and programming. For a retail store, this could be knowledge about customer service and sales. It can also include your supply chain and inventory processes.
2. Prioritize Critical Knowledge
Within those jobs and roles, you need to prioritize what knowledge is critical to retain and document for the future. Determine which processes and procedures have the highest impact on the success of your business.
Starting with your most experienced employees or subject matter experts is always a good idea. They can help you identify what is most important and understand why it’s necessary to document it.
This also reduces risks associated with turnover and retirement. With the right knowledge documented and readily available, you can continue to operate without any major interruptions or delays.
The key is to capture and communicate wisdom, not just tasks. Documenting processes and procedures is important, but it’s also important to capture the context for why those tasks are being performed. You want your team to understand the “why” behind what they do.
3. Start Small to Gain Momentum
Don’t try to document and retain all of your knowledge at once. Start small and focus on a few key areas. This will help you gain momentum and achieve successes that you can quickly turn around and use as a launching pad for the next project.
Organizational inertia can be a formidable obstacle when it comes to implementing change in any business. However, by starting small and taking measured steps forward, this hesitation to change (or do things differently) can be overcome.
Many companies start out with ambitious plans to implement new processes and procedures. These plans often include large-scale changes that require significant effort and resources to implement.
But, this approach can backfire if there isn’t enough support or enthusiasm for the changes. If you start small and focus on short-term wins, you’ll be more likely to gain the necessary support and momentum needed to move forward.
4. Generate Key Stakeholder Support Early
Implementing change initiatives, especially if it “adds more work” for your employees, can be challenging to get off the ground. Getting your stakeholders on board will be critical to the success of any new initiatives.
Note that stakeholders don’t necessarily mean the C-Suite or ones that have the “firing” power. This can be those trusted experts within each department who everyone goes to when they have a problem. Getting them on board not only gives your initiative the needed support but their insights and feedback can also improve the process.
Start by clearly communicating the current issues and how the implementation of knowledge management will help address them. By clearly outlining the benefits, both monetary and non-monetary, you’ll be able to gain buy-in from your stakeholders for future investments in knowledge retention.
Address fears that this “documentation” is a way to get rid of people or replace them with cheaper labor. Explain that this is not the intent of knowledge management but rather a way to safeguard the company’s future and make everyone’s jobs easier.
5. Living, Breathing Documents
Encourage knowledge sharing through collaboration. Break down silos, create an environment for open dialogue, and encourage documentation of experiences and processes.
Retaining, transferring, and sharing knowledge works best if it’s everyone’s job. Make sure that documents are living, breathing entities and not just set in stone. They should be updated regularly and not left to collect dust on the shelf.
Your documents need to reflect what is relevant or best practice today. As new information becomes available or outdated, so should your process documentation.
Markets change all the time. To stay competitive, your business evolves with it. If your documentation contains outdated information, then you might end up making decisions or following processes that no longer work.
6. Choose the Right Tools
The right tools can help you capture and store knowledge more efficiently.
Technology has come a long way in helping us to quickly record, search, and transfer information. There are many different types of software solutions that can be used for knowledge management, including document sharing and storage services, wikis, and chatbots.
But this all depends on the level of maturity of your organization, your budget, as well as the type of information you’d like to keep.
Don’t fall into the trap that you need to get the best of the best. Sometimes, a simple Word document can suffice.
That’s why here at Orion, we don’t advocate any particular software or technology. We believe that software is just a tool you use and it’s only as good as the people using it. That’s also why a lot of IT and ERP implementations fail. People often get blinded by the software’s features and capabilities that they neglect what really matters—the actual people and processes they want to automate.
Some criteria you need to consider when picking the right tool for your business:
- Ease of use
- Data integration capabilities.
Choose a solution that can help you capture knowledge quickly and efficiently while providing access to those who need to use it.
7. Maintain a Culture of Continuous Improvement
In order to effectively retain knowledge in an organization, you must have a culture of continuous improvement. Encourage all employees to think of ways that processes and systems can be improved. Ask them what important knowledge are critical.
Knowledge management should be an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Having regular reviews of existing documents can help ensure that information is kept up-to-date and relevant.
For example, in our process documentation template, you’ll find a “section” for revision history and when the next review date should be. This greatly reduces the chances of outdated or obsolete information circulating within the organization. More important processes get reviewed more frequently while less critical ones might only be reviewed once a year.
8. Gamify Knowledge Sharing and Retention
We also recommend that you create an internal reward system for employees who contribute to knowledge management in some way, such as coming up with new ideas or suggesting improvements. This will incentivize people to think more critically and help your organization stay competitive.
For example, come up with a challenge that encourages people to improve existing processes or identify new ones. When you gamify knowledge management, you create a sense of competition among employees and make it more fun. It makes the process more engaging.
Give people the opportunity to share their ideas publicly or in team meetings. This can help stir up innovative thinking within the organization and encourage members to think outside the box.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is knowledge retention in business?
Knowledge retention in business is the process of capturing, storing, and sharing information within an organization to ensure that vital information or expertise is not lost over time. This includes practices such as developing knowledge databases, creating consistent processes for document storage and retrieval and providing resources or training to help employees access and share data.
What are the benefits of knowledge retention?
Knowledge retention can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of an organization, enabling it to make better decisions faster. It also helps teams access vital information quickly and reduces the risk of losing important data as employees move on or utilize different systems. Additionally, knowledge retention can help foster collaboration among team members, improving communication and speeding up project completion times.
What services does your company provide for knowledge retention?
Orion Development Group offers a variety of services to help businesses implement effective knowledge retention strategies. This includes developing customized solutions for your business, creating and documenting processes, providing resources or training, and many more. Reach out to our team today to learn more about how we can help you retain and transfer knowledge.
Need Help with Knowledge Management?
By following the strategies presented, you can ensure that you retain critical knowledge in your organization. You also ensure that the business wisdom you captured is up-to-date and accurately reflects the current state of your business. This will help keep processes running smoothly and maintain a competitive edge.
If you need help with setting up knowledge management systems or documenting critical processes in your business, Orion can help. Reach out to us today and let’s discuss how we can assist you.
For more than 30 years, Orion Development Group has helped organizations to increase efficiency, reduce waste, and improve the bottom line through business process management (BPM). Our experienced consultants can help you develop a knowledge management system that works for your organization and will ensure that the key information stays within it.
Contact us today for more information about how we can assist you with effective knowledge retention strategies.