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Managing Institutional Knowledge in a Volatile Job Market

February 13, 2023

In today’s market, employee turnover appears to happen frequently. Companies are resizing their tech workforce because of the overhiring period in the last two years and need to cut costs in preparation for more changes in the economy in 2023. 

After the pandemic, we saw a Great Resignation or Great Reshuffle in the workforce as well. Regardless, when employees leave without taking time to train peers and document their processes and work, the knowledge walks out of the door with them. 

We are all aware of the critical individuals that retain a lot of essential information in their heads - especially for less automated functions like data & analytics. Managing institutional knowledge in a volatile job market can be challenging, but there are several strategies that organizations can adopt to ensure that critical knowledge can be retained and learned easily by others:

1. Document critical processes

Ensure that critical business processes are documented and stored in a centralized repository, accessible to all employees. Along with that, foster a culture of knowledge sharing among employees and provide opportunities for cross-training and collaboration. All shared knowledge should be documented and stored in case an employee suddenly leaves the organization. This documentation needs to be relevant, up-to-date, and applicable to everyone interacting with it within the organization. Bake in time for activities that add to this knowledge base every week.

2. Establish knowledge-sharing check-ins

Establish a way to check in on knowledge sharing within the organization. This allows the individual and experts in the organization to ensure everyone understands what needs to be done and shared. Pair senior employees with junior staff to facilitate the transfer of knowledge and experience. Some people are better at showing others how to do something than explaining it. Senior staff within departments can show others how to handle important situations as well as everyday happenings. Record these sessions and make them available to others.

3. Invest in continuous education 

Encourage continuous learning and professional development, particularly for critical roles and functions. A comprehensive training program helps your employees understand their roles and responsibilities as well as how their role contributes to the organization, which will increase performance. These programs should be well-curated and applicable in day-to-day functions. This makes your teams much more efficient, reduces quality issues in what they are building, and creates a sustainable environment.

As technology continues to advance, employees’ skills will need to advance as well to ensure the organization doesn’t fall behind. 

4. Use technology to store and consume information

Implement knowledge management systems and other technology-based solutions to store, organize, and easily retrieve important information. A knowledge base is critical to storing employees' common questions, processes, and SOPs. Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are documented processes created by companies to ensure consistency. They establish guidelines or instructions so employees know what to do in specific situations, allowing them to work more productively while complying with regulations and expectations. The key is to focus on format and think about the consumer of this information. When will they be accessing it? What will they be using it for? What example do they need to grasp the concept?

By implementing these strategies, organizations can effectively manage institutional knowledge and ensure that critical information and skills are transferred during reorganization, rapid growth, or other disruptions within an organization.

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