Thought Leadership

Digital Knowledge Retention

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Digital Knowledge – According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching the age of 65 each day and about 5,900 retire, while others move on to other part time jobs with their employers or make other employment arrangements outside. The impact of digital knowledge loss on an organization is a largely unexplored area of strategic management. While it has been on the horizon for years, the reality of the boomer brain drain is still catching companies off guard, making “digital knowledge transfer” a key imperative for many companies. This challenge is now multiplied by COVID-19, with many highly skilled employees being affected by their ability to return to work on site or in remote places.

So as this generation of workers retire or change jobs, it’s crucial that companies find a way to harvest this critical knowledge not just a rough outline of how they do their jobs or a filing cabinet stuffed with old manuals and reports, but some of the deeper “tacit knowledge” gained from years of experience before digital technology was available. As we all know, both humans and machines generate massive amounts of data, which when shared and analyzed properly can provide incredible insights in terms of how machines behave during their normal state or when something is about to happen. With tools such AI, ML, Digital Twin and AR we can learn, act, and predict and prevent costly failures.

For the most part, when employee leave, they pass on some information, however there is a big difference between information and knowledge. Information is what you can get from Google or other information databases whereas knowledge is partially based on experience. What we mean by “tacit knowledge” is information in your head that one gathered over many years and has never been written down or documented. In many cases the employees have never even articulated it because of job security. That’s why companies often fail to retain that deeper variety of knowledge once a longtime employee retires — they don’t think to look for it, and it’s not something a person writes in his or her notebook before racing out the door for the last time.

7 Point plan to retain Digital Knowledge within your Company

Here are some building blocks for your Digital Knowledge Management Strategy:

  1. Establish your culture. Your employees can take pieces of company culture with them when they leave, so it is important to establish it early on and reinforce it often.
  2. Include culture in onboarding. Do not let this knowledge accumulate without being referenced; instead, introduce new employees to the culture from the very beginning.
  3. Clarify and define. What is your company’s “why”? Make sure you clearly state what makes your company stand out.
  4. Find out what is indispensable. Identify what you need every single employee to know given the specific knowledge that is at risk. Some of our customers do this by simply surveying their best employees with the longest tenure to find out the skills they needed to preserve.
  5. Develop a knowledge transfer strategy. You may have a clear understanding of how your team works, but do not assume that best practices will be seamlessly transmitted to new members. Take a few steps to create an explicit strategy. The sooner you prepare, the better. Start with the people who are most important to your organization. Ultimately, your goal is to help employees exit smoothly and leave a strong legacy.
  6. Establish knowledge-transfer best practices. Use interviews, mentoring, storytelling, or practice communities to maintain consistency. Some companies including Proudfoot videotapes their veteran employees lecturing on what it was like to be part of a special project offshore, or in a remote mine or oil field and use it to help socialize new employees.
  7. Prepare the organization for the Digital knowledge Management world – establish clear processes, expectations, roles and responsibilities and mechanisms to both upload & upgrade as well as facilitate easy access and user consumption of the critical content.

At Proudfoot, for example, we use process, tools, and our People Solutions™ expertise to change behaviors, which helps us maintain a high-performance organization. Digital knowledge retention is key to our success therefore we document and digitize all aspects of our client interaction and engagements.

Get ahead of your digital knowledge retention and digitalization challenges, contact us to understand  how Proudfoot delivers unparalleled customer experience.

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Posted on December 11, 2020

By David Warren

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