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The Great Resignation. A.k.a, the Big Quit or the Great Reshuffle. By now, you’ve probably heard of this phenomenon that’s affected workplaces around the world since early 2021—and it shows no signs of slowing down. Employers are justifiably concerned. According to Forbes Magazine, executives across different sectors agree that keeping talent is their number one challenge. Number two is finding new talent.
But the situation is worse than just retention. Very few companies are acknowledging the valuable institutional knowledge that departing employees are taking with them. This loss of expertise impedes collaboration, slows productivity, and creates a gap that’s much more difficult to fill than the number of open positions. The effects are especially debilitating if the lost knowledge took years to learn and cultivate.
As more and more baby boomers retire and with job hopping on the rise, especially among Gen Z, it's time for employers to take more proactive steps to preserve and share their institutional knowledge.
To improve knowledge retention, L&D must create a strong organizational culture that encourages knowledge sharing. A true learning culture provides opportunities for employees to learn from each other and upskill, and supplies them with tools that simplify knowledge sharing.
When you create a company culture that encourages knowledge sharing and collaborative learning, everyone proactively documents and exchanges their expertise. Employees are encouraged to take accountability for documenting and maintaining their own unique knowledge and processes. And your teams will be more productive, collaborative, and tuned in to each other. Documenting rare and in-demand knowledge also lessens the impact of skills gaps.
This is especially important when you consider that, according to research, “42% of the skills and expertise required to perform capably in a given role are unique to the individual employee. That’s knowledge they alone possess. Should that person leave, their remaining teammates won’t be able to do 42% of their work, and a new hire will need to learn 42% of it from scratch.” An effective documentation process ensures that key company information is shared and preserved and documents possess knowledge vital to a business’s success.
Documentation can also be used to simplify complex processes across business functions. For example, you can create a streamlined employee onboarding process by providing new hires with important information about their roles, projects, or teams (from account logins and client/customer profile information to step-by-step instructions on how to perform a task). In addition, as part of your employee offboarding process, you can capture the knowledge of departing employees and document their essential duties for transition to another employee.
42% of the skills and expertise required to perform capably in a given role are unique to the individual employee.
Once you’ve documented all your knowledge, it’s important to store and organize it on one central platform that makes it simple for employees to share what they know or to find what they need.
The average interaction worker spends about 20% of their workweek searching for information. So, it’s important to choose a platform that makes discoverability easy with advanced search options. When everything is integrated into one central platform, it encourages collaborative learning and sharing because employees can quickly and easily find information. They’re more collaborative, productive, and empowered to learn and engage. And your valuable company knowledge is accessible to everyone who needs it, not just a single department or team.
To manage and store your knowledge, we recommend choosing a knowledge management system or Learning Management System (LMS) that allows for collaborative authoring and makes the task of capturing institutional knowledge and using it feasible for teams, even as they scale. These systems give you tools to organize, share, and create documents and, in the case of a collaborative LMS, create courses for continued learning.
Today’s employees value learning and growth opportunities. In fact, 94% of employees would stay with their current employer longer if their employer invested in their careers. And 86% of professionals would switch jobs for better professional development training.
By providing professional and leadership development opportunities to your employees, such as mentorship, upskilling, and learning in the flow of work, you can create a culture of learning within your organization that keeps them engaged and motivated and ultimately retains employees and their knowledge.
A strategic and well-thought-out mentoring or coaching program makes the most of high-performing or long-time employees’ experience and transfers critical knowledge to new or younger employees.
For example, you can make teaching and mentorship part of your employee rewards and recognition program and allocate time for your organization’s subject matter experts to share their tips with peers.
You can also pair experienced or senior employees with new hires for mentoring programs as part of your employee onboarding process. Or even make mentoring a part of your offboarding program, too, by having a new hire shadow or support a departing employee in their final days.
And when it comes to coaching, you can encourage a leadership coaching culture in your workplace by building opportunities for managers to support and learn from each other’s decision-making skills and continually motivate one another to gain additional knowledge.
These initiatives enable you to capture and share knowledge by making learning a collaborative experience for all parties involved.
Your organization’s top talent sits on a gold mine of information. You can tap into this wealth of knowledge by encouraging them to teach and learn from each other by creating courses on their subjects of expertise. Your content will be more team- and company-specific than ready-made courses.
For example, a senior graphic designer at a creative agency with years of experience and familiarity with a client’s brand guidelines can create a training course for junior designers in their department. Not only does the senior graphic designer transfer her knowledge to her team, but new hires also get more depth and context from the organization’s custom course than they would from a ready-made one.
Overall, handing the responsibility for course creation over to your employees helps the company preserve its institutional knowledge and encourages employees to break down information silos by collaborating and learning from others.
You can also make learning more accessible and collaborative with asynchronous courses that allow employees to take courses when it’s convenient for them. Additionally, learning in the flow of work engages employees with short pieces of learning while working. They gain knowledge without disrupting their workflow. For example, with an LMS system that offers gamification or microlearning opportunities, employees can sneak some short and fast ways to learn new things into their work day. This makes the process of gaining new knowledge easier, more satisfying, and continuous.
Reskilling or upskilling—learning that helps your team stay up to date on relevant skills—can help build a clear career path that motivates employees to stay longer while also helping your organization to preserve its knowledge.
This can be achieved by offering training programs, courses, or mentorship opportunities that enable employees to gain knowledge in entirely new areas (reskill) or build on their existing skills and knowledge (upskill).
For example, an online sales associate who wants to upskill to a sales management role might decide to take an online management training course. In this case, she already has some sales knowledge but can learn additional leadership and people management skills to help her prepare for a management role. And a project manager who is considering reskilling to a role in human resources can shadow people in the human resources department to see what they do and if it would be a good fit. These employees are tapping into self-paced learning and the existing knowledge of human managers to gain new knowledge and skills.
Handing the responsibility for course creation over to your employees helps the company preserve its institutional knowledge and encourages employees to break down information silos.
Nothing lasts forever. And if anything, the Great Resignation proved that employee turnover is inevitable. However, knowledge loss doesn’t have to be a given. When the dust from the Great Resignation eventually settles, the companies that will have survived and thrived will be those that managed to preserve their knowledge in the midst of all the changes and upheaval.
360Learning can help you get there. Our platform makes it easier to identify, capture, store, and share knowledge to help create a true learning organization.
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