The APQC Blog

6 Proven Knowledge Retention Ideas To Avoid Disaster

We’ve all heard the saying “the only constant in life is change.” Change is happening faster than ever in companies around the world—whether it’s implementing new software, automating processes, or hiring/losing employees—your company will inevitably face change.

One of the most valuable assets companies have is knowledge. Knowledge is everywhere; from employees who are experts in their area and have been with the company or in the industry for a long time, cross-functional knowledge shared between departments, or processes that have been transformed over time and passed down to new generations. Changing fast and often can put all this knowledge at risk of disappearing, resulting in the loss of valuable information.

So what can you do to hold on to this valuable knowledge in an ever-changing environment? According to this article, there are 6 steps you can follow to effectively handle knowledge transfer within your company:

1. Make it formal. Find ways to get the knowledge down on paper. One example for saving and transferring knowledge is creating sample templates. Make sure templates and other processes are clear and consistent and are being shared among every employee.

2. Create duplication. Plan for the worst when it comes to employees leaving. Although it would be ineffective to have two employees doing the exact same job, when possible, it’s useful to do cross-training in your team to “mitigate the risk of a key person leaving with a head full of knowledge. Ensure that there are at least two people who can step in doing an emergency.”

3. Train, train, train.  As the article mentions, when “providing your team members with formal training opportunities, you ensure that you have duplication of skills in the system. However, if you don’t have the resources for formal training, you can try this simulation: Remove a key person from the system temporarily so the team can see what happens. If things fall apart quickly, people will be eager to figure out how to prevent that failure from happening in the future.” This will also show you what specific skills your company needs duplicated in multiple employees.

4. Use systems. Another strategy to effectively transfer knowledge from one generation of employees to the next is by utilizing technology. Technology can capture key information for later generations to use.  Using technology  can also make the process of knowledge transfer more collaborative and shareable.

5. Create opportunities.  Establish informal meetings in which teams can come together to share information as well as to collaborate on how to better transfer knowledge among one another.

6. Be smart when using consultants.  While many businesses rely on consultants from time to time, it is important to have a plan when it comes to transferring knowledge learned by the consultant so it stays within the organization.

It goes without saying that all of these are great steps to take to effectively manage knowledge transfer; however, a big factor that will determine how successful your company is at knowledge transfer is culture. The culture should make knowledge transfer practices a top priority if wanting to keep valuable information within the organization for years to come.

I’d love to hear what processes or practices your company currently uses to handle knowledge transfer.  I look forward to your comments!

Suggested Content:

Classic Knowledge Transfer Approaches: Identification and Transfer of Critical Job-Related Knowledge

Classic Approaches for Knowledge Retention and Transfer

Choosing the Right Knowledge Transfer Approach

*Please note that some pieces are available to nonmembers of APQC, while some are only available to members. APQC membership gives you access to so much more. See if your organization is a member and register today!

*If you'd like to learn even more about knowledge retention join us for APQC’s 2017 Knowledge Management Conference April 27-28. You can still get early bird pricing for APQC’s 2017’s KM Conference through March.

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