ecently, I was chatting to a close friend who works in IT for a major US retailer. He shared how one of their teams had come up with a great-sounding idea, then spent the past few weeks preparing to make it happen. Then someone had mentioned the new project to a colleague. "Oh yeah," that team member responded. "We tried that 5 years ago. It didn't work."
In one sentence, the project was crushed and weeks of work lost.
It might be worth mentioning at this point that the colleague had been with the company almost twenty years, while everyone on the idea-team had been there three years or less.
It's hard to find a clearer picture of knowledge drain. That is, the loss of institutional knowledge and experience that occurs with employee turnover. And let's face it, no matter how amazing your company is, employees are eventually going to leave, now more than ever. The average time employees spend in a job is now just 3.4 years.
Knowledge drain costs organisations millions every year - anywhere from 2 to 265 million dollars according to a recent study.
So how do you capture the invaluable knowledge locked inside every employee's head? It's not as hard as you may think.
Read on for three ways to fight knowledge drain in your organisation.
#1 Favour collaboration over competitiveness
It seems almost too obvious to include in 2021, but here we are. Too many companies still encourage cultures of competitiveness through structures of individual rewards and aggressive targets. However, highly competitive work environments implicitly encourage information hoarding as it leads to workers who cling to anything that could give them an advantage.
Workplaces that choose collaboration over competition are better at fighting knowledge drain because they don’t penalise information sharing. Instead, workers are rewarded (implicitly or explicitly) for sharing their knowledge with their coworkers as the entire team improves and delivers better results.
Mentoring has long been recognised as an effective method for passing along wisdom. Yet it often relies on the courage of a younger worker to approach the person they admire to initiate a mentorship. Even then, the potential mentor may say no if the expectations are unclear, or clearly too onerous. Younger workers may also favour charismatic or energetic mentors, and accidentally miss quieter candidates who are equally or more valuable.
To overcome these barriers, your organization can develop an official mentoring program and encourage team members to join as a mentor or mentee. Make sure to outline clear expectations such as:
- How often mentoring pairs should meet at a minimum.
- How often mentee should contact mentors between meets.
- What topics are appropriate to discuss.
You may also like to direct participants to spend their first meeting outlining their personal expectations for the relationship. Another good practice is to share tips for mentors and mentees on how to get the most out of the relationship.
#3 Give your team the tool it needs
Collaboration and mentoring are really just the start when it comes to fighting knowledge drain. To give your business the competitive edge you’re after, invest in software like HowToo that allows for seamless sharing and self-directed upskilling within teams and sections of your organisation.
Using HowToo, many large organisations have seen proven success in allowing team members to create short, easily shareable courses around concise ideas, procedures or topics. By putting the creation power in your team’s hands, you can show that their experience and ideas are valuable, while also creating a lasting knowledge library that will survive long after your people have moved on.