3 Tips to Preserve Institutional Knowledge When an Employee Leaves

When an employee leaves your business, you don’t lose just their productivity—you lose all of the institutional knowledge that the employee gained during their time at your company. Even if your employee gives two weeks’ notice, it’s difficult to transfer all of their knowledge during a transition period. Many businesses fail to recognize what they’ve lost until an employee is gone. 

If you’re managing a team, it seems as though this loss is inevitable. But as a leader, it’s your duty to capture this information long before an employee leaves your company. This ensures that your business is more efficient and resilient as employees come and go. 

Understand the value of institutional knowledge management and use our three tips to preserve it proactively.

Why you need institutional knowledge management

Employees have intimate knowledge of your work processes, operations, vendors, and clients. If their experience isn’t documented somewhere, you’ll lose it when they leave the company. 

Institutional knowledge management documents the more subtle, less tangible information stored in your employees’ brains. Businesses create formal processes and platforms for collecting this valuable knowledge long before an employee leaves, preserving significantly more data and preventing knowledge crises. 

But is knowledge management worth it? Can’t your business get by with a simple SOP or on-the-job training? 

Institutional knowledge management is a must for every business because the average employee retention rate is 90%. This means that, in a given year, you will lose 10% of your team. It’s natural for people to change jobs, but that means the value and knowledge an employee brought to your organization will be lost forever the moment they leave. 

When your best employees decide to leave the company, institutional knowledge management ensures the employee’s expertise lives on after they leave.

3 tips for better institutional knowledge management

A tenured employee’s exit can plunge your team into crisis mode. It’s difficult to react when a team member leaves, and that’s why proactive institutional knowledge management is a must. 

No one will stay at your business forever, so it’s best to prepare for each employee’s exit with proper institutional knowledge management. Ensure you keep critical knowledge where it belongs—in your business—by following these three tips. 

1. Audit your current employees’ knowledge

Start by auditing your current knowledge. Ask yourself:

  • Which employees hold the most valuable knowledge? 
  • How likely is an employee to leave? 
  • Do other employees have similar experience or knowledge? 

The goal is to find employees who have a long tenure with the company, who are likely to leave or retire soon, or who have a specialized job that no one else understands. A workforce assessment can help you quickly identify which team members have critical knowledge. Send your employees a digital survey to quickly assess which team members are the best candidates for knowledge management. 

After auditing your current employees, obtain knowledge from your most high-risk team members. For example, if you have one person in your finance department who’s nearing retirement age, they would be a prime candidate for institutional knowledge transfer. 

You can obtain this employee’s knowledge by: 

  • Conducting a thorough interview
  • Asking them to record step-by-step instructional videos
  • Writing SOPs based on their processes

Keep in mind that you’ll need to store this knowledge on a platform like Elium to make it actionable and useful to the rest of your team. 

2. Invest in junior employees

63% of millennial employees don’t think their employers are adequately developing their leadership skills. Since 56% of organizations can’t meet their leadership needs in-house, this means many businesses have a huge leadership gap.

And this is such a waste of invaluable potential. In general, newcomers and junior hirres like to share their knowledge, learn from others and thrive in a collaborative culture. If they are not given the right means to succeed, opportunities are lost. 

It is because of this that you should create an environment that empowers junior hires to steer collaboration and knowledge sharing. Such practices include:

  • Shadowing
  • Mentoring
  • Workshops
  • Ongoing training

Your HR team should also prioritize hiring from within. Doing so will ensure you hang on to institutional knowledge instead of hiring outsiders who know less about your culture, clients, and mission. 

3. Structure your knowledge with technology

Your knowledge is only as useful as your knowledge management platform. Your organization needs the right technology to act as a repository for your institutional memory. This allows you to codify all of the knowledge that would normally go undocumented, formalizing data and making the untrackable trackable. 

Platforms like Elium allow your team to access the information they need to work smarter and faster. Add content to your library and update it as needed based on how useful it is to your team. Build your team’s workflow into Elium so they actually use your valuable information on a daily basis—instead of allowing the data to collect dust in an obscure database. 

Elium’s Content Transfer feature will help you preserve your knowledge as your team changes, too. This new fonction allows you to take over the content created by an employee when they leave the company so your knowledge is always in the right hands. 

Formalize your institutional knowledge 

Employee turnover is a huge problem for any business. But the bigger issue is the loss of institutional memory. Don’t let your hard-won knowledge walk out the door with former employees. Follow the tips above to create a formalized institutional knowledge management plan that prioritizes knowledge-gathering before it’s too late. 

The right knowledge management platform makes a big difference. Preserve your institutional knowledge with Elium. Our innovative platform puts your knowledge in the hands of employees when they need it most. Get a free demo now.

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