The most seasoned employee of yours has begun their planning for retirement after 25 years of service to you and your mission. Before you start planning the retirement ceremony, have you planned how your company will retain the employee’s company knowledge? What information about your business, its processes and history will be lost forever when this employee retires? Let’s take a moment to plan your next steps of capturing this untapped company knowledge.
What is Company Knowledge?
As your employees learn how to perform their role, they are acquiring company knowledge. Insperity defines company knowledge also known as institutional knowledge as “the information that only one or a few employees have about your company’s operations or important relationships.” Think from a department level perspective. You have one employee who is the main contact for vendors and she is the only one who knows what to order, when to order it and the quantity. She’s the expert. If she were ever to leave your company, would anyone know how to pick up this task and continue on smoothly? Odds are against you without a documented process or backup in place.
How Am I Impacted by This Untapped Knowledge?
At a certain level, company knowledge is a great thing! It directly aligns with employee loyalty and a smooth-running machine, or workplace if you will. However, at some point, you will find yourself approaching an employee retirement or departure. Your company will now lose valuable knowledge this employee holds, if it wasn’t properly documented. Your company is likely at fault for not gathering this untapped knowledge due to three common factors.
1. Everyone is Busy Working.
Employees know what is expected from them and everyone is completing their task at hand. There is no doubt in your mind that the job is getting done as you watch production continue at a healthy rate with the other departments following along respectfully. No one has time to add another task to their plate. You know as a result no one is documenting their work processes. If one employee leaves in this work environment, how would your company handle this?
2. Departures and Time Off Happen Both Planned and Unexpected
Retirements are often well planned ahead of time with a clear strategy for who takes over the role and learns the processes. However, what about your employee who unexpectedly passes away or leaves with a short two-week window notice? He’s been with the company for three years and is the only one in his department to do much of the tasks since he started in his role. Taking the time to write out processes and plan a backup person will not only alleviate the pressure when departures happen; it will also make employees feel a sense of relief that the work will continue while out on vacations or taking time off.
3. Dedicated Employees Do Not Document Processes
Whenever you have a new task at hand and you’re looking for someone reliable to help, odds are you have an employee in mind to delegate the task to. This person aids where needed and often enjoys having a plate of tasks fuller than most. This dedicated employee, in many companies, is never asked to document their processes. “They will always get it done. Why worry about how it gets done?” Retirements and unexpected departures happen. Documentation now prepares for both in the future.
How to Capture Company Knowledge
Now you see how you are impacted by company knowledge and how easily it can be forgotten to document. Let’s review how to capture this information. At Vinna Human Resources, we recommend succession planning and maintaining updated operation procedures. These two practices will both address the expected and unexpected departures from your company.
1. Succession Planning
Retirement is a celebrated honor. Oftentimes an employee has been a part of the company for many years and has a lot of untapped company knowledge. With planned departures such as retirement, it is important to have a succession plan in place. Have you taken a look at your company’s organization structure and determined the progression of who is aligned with what future role? Or has your company determined that hiring outside of the company is a vital piece of your succession plan? Planning and creating a clear, precise strategy will ensure an organization continues to run smooth during leadership and staffing changes.
2. Maintaining Operation Procedures
While succession planning is a long term, 12-36 month effort, maintaining operation procedures ensures that documentation takes place. In a perfect world, an organization would have records for how to do processes for each position within a company. This would ensure that your organization is prepared for whoever may leave the company. However, we encourage you not to approach these as a negative, additional duties to your employees. Rather, as a value added for solidifying procedures and creating stability throughout the company to prepare for any change that may occur. The last thing you want to occur when maintaining operation procedures to increase employee fear of job loss.
Vinna Human Resources is Your Resource
Documenting untapped company knowledge is overwhelming. Most companies struggle to understand how their company can begin with this while also continuing their operations. Don’t panic. Vinna Human Resources is here are your resource. Reach out to us today and we will help your organization in figuring out where and how to begin with unleashing the untapped company knowledge for your organization.