Nationwide statistics tell us that record numbers of employees have been transitioning to other jobs or out of the workforce altogether. While younger people often change jobs from one company to another, those were not the primary job transitions reported in 2021. More high-value employees transitioned during 2021 than ever before. These are long-term employees who have worked in a company for five to fifteen years.
That means that companies without knowledge transfer systems are losing the internal knowledge, soft skills, and leadership that make the business unique.
The two ways to hold onto institutional knowledge
There are two ways to keep institutional knowledge in a business:
The first is to have a business owner who holds all company knowledge in their head.
This is the least ideal situation because it means:
- The business owner can never take a day off.
- The business owner is the foremost resource for all employees – so the company will never scale.
- The business owner will get burnt out.
The second is to systematize the company and include knowledge transfer as part of the workflow to keep vital processes and procedures in place – even if an employee leaves the company.
This second scenario:
- Supports scalability.
- Provides educational resources that are accessible to all employees.
- Isn’t dependant upon a business owner or employee staying with a company forever.
- Allows the business owner to retire, transfer, or sell the company one day.
If you had to choose, which scenario would you prefer?
I am going to guess that you said the second scenario. It’s much easier on everyone in the company and provides far more growth opportunities than the first scenario.
Make knowledge retention part of the daily workflow
As you consider systematizing your entire company, you may begin to feel overwhelmed. Your business has many departments, including customer service, HR, accounting, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and others. Each department has its own systems – even if they are not written down.
The key to the systematization of an entire company is to include documentation of vital processes and procedures as part of the daily workflow. This is a top-down project. That means you, the business owner, must be the one to begin documenting processes and procedures.
The first step to take is to identify the area of your company that is most often “on fire.” Ask yourself, “Where do I have to jump in and help most often?” and “Which area usually requires my specialized knowledge to run?”
This is the first area to systematize.
As you dive in and organize the area of your business that needs the most help, engage the entire team. While they have been asking for your support and advice, they also have specialized knowledge and successful processes that need to be documented. Work with the whole team to document specialized processes and procedures and make these systems accessible to all.
Once all processes and procedures have been documented, do a test run with each. If they work, great! If not, tweak them.
Then, ask employees to run through the systems every few months and add additional tasks so that every process reflects what needs to get done to accomplish the overall activity.
By including the team in documenting processes and procedures – and assigning the task of continued maintenance of these systems to employees – you are making knowledge retention part of the workflow.
What to do with exceptions
After completing the systematization of a department, you will likely get employees discussing exceptions they have encountered, providing you with additional information, and sharing even more institutional knowledge.
Invite those employees to record exceptions and how they are handled. When the quarterly systems review is completed, this additional knowledge can be included in the appropriate system as a caveat – or as a system in itself.
By aggressively recording institutional knowledge and creating an environment of knowledge sharing, your employees are providing the basis for knowledge transfer and the training of future hires.
Do you feel like you are the main resource for all of your institutional knowledge? Are you experiencing executive burnout because you are always on-call?
Get in touch with the process experts at Business Success Consulting Group today.