3 Easy Ways to Start Retaining Knowledge


The workforce is going to look much different in the next five years because of the widespread retirement of loyal, dependable, and knowledgeable employees. We’ll have a newer, younger, and motivated workforce who wants collaboration and craves immediate feedback.

Think of someone in your organization who has been around for more than 15 years. Now, what do you think would happen if they left their job tomorrow? Would the organization be able to sustain the loss?  How would you be able to re-create that lost knowledge from the ground up?  If answering these questions makes you uncertain, it’s time to act now.  Time and effort are the biggest excuses we hear about when it comes to retaining knowledge.

“There’s nothing more dangerous than depending on a few key people.”
– Organizational Behavior, An Experiential Approach (Osland, Kolb, Rubin, Turner)

There are easy ways to start retaining that knowledge, even if you are short staffed:

  1. Introduce it in a modern way – Many people think knowledge sharing requires a lot of time and effort. If you think about it, knowledge sharing occurs in social media every moment. Tweeting, posting on Facebook, or reading this blog are all examples of how knowledge is shared. In the age of social media, it’s very easy to share explicit knowledge with the entire world with a click of a button. So, why is integrating knowledge sharing methodologies in the workplace so “difficult” and “time consuming”?
  2. Emphasize simplicity – Knowledge sharing doesn’t have to be complicated or cumbersome. It can be as easy as setting up a common area for “quick tips”, to hold simple, to the point information (no more than two sentences) on something relevant and useful.  Another example is doing 5 minutes of job shadowing on a simple task, or even an opportunity to ask questions to a valued resource. The point here is, there doesn’t have to be a dedicated time commitment or extensive documentation when trying to retain knowledge. The goal is to get as much knowledge transferred from one person to another, using the least amount of effort and time. Use your creativity to motivate people to share and find value in those efforts.
  3. Demonstrate the impact – Let’s say that you have a simple knowledge sharing strategy where a backup and a key contact exchange information on a task on a regular basis. An emergency occurs and your key contact for the task is absent and can’t be reached. Do you wait, or do you resolve the problem? “It’s not urgent, we can just wait for her to get back from vacation.” Instead of waiting, the backup can step in and resolve the issue. In this case, take the opportunity to use the situation as a positive and public example for why knowledge sharing is so important and further prove that the organization is able to stay nimble in cases where a valued resource is absent.

Because the workforce is shifting, it becomes more and more important to think of simple ways to retain and share some of the valuable knowledge that we have in our organizations.

Purvi Bodawala is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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