Inarguably, one of the most valuable assets a company has is the knowledge and expertise that lives in the heads of seasoned employees. Their sharp know-how has been acquired over years of hands-on, in-the-field experience, and they’ve acted as examples and advisors to countless other employees.
There is often concern over what to do when those high performing team members retire or choose to move on to another opportunity. The aging population has company leaders scrambling to address what’s become known as knowledge retention.
Not only are you losing a valuable team member, but how do you extract that knowledge and pass it on to others? In some cases, that person might be the only one who knows what he knows. And he does have a job to do. He can’t be everywhere at once spending time mentoring and coaching everyone else. No, there has to be a more efficient way.
Rest assured, there is a more efficient way, and it involves leveraging technology to make information more widely available. We’ve helped many companies set up and apply powerful knowledge sharing tools to shrink the knowledge gap and improve knowledge retention. The benefits go beyond departing employees. Cooperative learning has proven to be one of the most effective ways to spread knowledge within a group. People are more likely to listen to what their peers have to say than someone who isn’t doing the same job.
What are the components of a typical knowledge sharing platform? You’ll commonly find:
- A content library to fill with how-to videos, step-by-step job aids, infographics, charts and photos so that users can find helpful material whenever they need it.
- Social sharing capabilities to allow your employees to collaboratively share learning content with one another.
- A discussion board where users can connect to ask or answer questions, while others benefit from reading the conversations.
- A messaging tool to create and send communications to users about new or updated content.
- A reporting mechanism to monitor timely content consumption.
The hardest part, of course, is assembling learning content to make sure what you have is relevant and helpful to users. Recognize that while you might have a lot of training collateral, some of it might need to be repurposed or updated to make the knowledge sharing platform work as well as it can.
Now, you need to turn to your seasoned veterans.
- Ask their opinion of existing training materials, or how training is currently conducted. They’ve probably witnessed a lot of training throughout their career and can offer valuable insight.
- Enlist their help in editing content so that it’s up-to-date. Depending on when it was written or who the original writer was, it might require adjustments in accuracy, tone or format.
- Interview them to uncover anything that might be missing from the current library. Anyone handling instructional design or the creation of learning content should sit down with veteran employees to pick their brain about new training opportunities.
- Ask for their support in helping other employees adapt to the new platform. By engaging them at the beginning, you’ll have their buy-in to help encourage others to use it.
This “knowledge harvesting” process gives you a wealth of training material that is team-sourced rather than pushed down from the top. Then as a manager, training manager or admin, you can optionally curate this content into the correct forms and format for learners to absorb.
Once knowledge sharing is put in place, training will be easier to maintain and update, and with everyone having access to the same information, the knowledge gap will be much smaller. You can see an example here.
How has your company overcome the knowledge gap? Leave a comment below!
Photo Credit: ryancr