Bridging the Gap: Capturing knowledge before it walks out the door

By 2030, all baby boomers will be 65 or older. Not to mention that many Gen Xers — or those born between 1965 and 1980 — are now in their 50s. Combined with workforce changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing “Great Resignation,” the potential for knowledge loss is growing across all industries.

For example, according to a study by The Manufacturing Institute, nearly 80% of companies are concerned about the impending aging workforce exodus. Further, a study by Panopto found that inefficient knowledge sharing is estimated to cost large businesses some $47 million per year in lost productivity.

But that’s not all. The impact of lost knowledge expands beyond individual employees. It also encompasses the relationships they have with other employees that help them get things done, the teams they are on and other intangibles.

Tara Chrisco, director of People and Organization Development at HORNE, said the pace of change within business has accelerated to the point where as soon as knowledge is documented, it’s out of date. That’s why embracing new methods is so important.

“Some of the ways we’re now capturing and transferring knowledge extends beyond writing standard operating procedures or manuals as we’ve done in the past,” she said. “We still do a little bit of that, but we’re doing more and more of it through video technology.”

Chrisco said recording video helps to capture aspects of the work in the moment and then that video can be hosted on a shared site providing easy access for those who need it.

“When I am trying to figure out a specific task, I can go to that team-shared space and find help quickly — much like searching for a YouTube video — because in two to three minutes, a person will walk me through how to do the one aspect of the job that I need to do.

“We’re also using technology like Zoom channels to put together communities of practice,” she continued. “If there’s a question that comes up, and there’s say 40 people on the channel, someone will be able to provide a real-time response, and that allows for knowledge transfer in the moment.”

Chrisco said it’s about finding ways to create quick methods of transfer instead of capturing knowledge in longer, more drawn-out, formal ways. This not only helps with gaps caused by retiring workers, but also the lack of organic sharing by remote employees and the loss of other workers in this new era of job turnover.

Gathering and understanding workforce data helps companies identify trends and flight risks not only among individual contributors, but among high-performing, high-potential managers as well, a group Chrisco said feels the pressure.

“For instance, our TeamVantage assessment tool can help companies understand where gaps in skills and capabilities exist,” she said. “We can then focus on those areas and do deeper dives around knowledge transfer, management and training.”

She added that managing multiple risk areas at once can be challenging, but creating a culture where mentoring is expected is a viable solution.

“If employees are expected to mentor and be mentored, they’ll start looking for opportunities to do so,” Chrisco said. “And if part of the performance review focuses on how well they’re transferring knowledge to others, it can make a huge impact.

“One of the things we suggest is for employees to be transferring 25-30% of their work on a yearly basis so they’re not the only ones who have particular knowledge. If they’re doing that consistently and are meeting the performance goal, then fewer gaps need to be managed across the whole spectrum.”

For companies that aren’t set up to incorporate knowledge transfer into performance reviews, who have employees who may be working longer hours or those who are not as comfortable mentoring others, Chrisco said finding designated departmental champions to lead the knowledge transfer effort can serve the same purpose.

If you’re looking for ways to capture institutional knowledge before it walks out the door, HORNE can help. Contact us today.

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