Avoid Brain Drain

Avoid Brain Drain

by Cheryl Stein
Monster Business Coach

Knowledge Retention Tips

Knowledge retention is on everyone’s minds lately because we are about to see a whole generation of employees who have decades of experience leave the workforce. No, I am not talking about massive layoffs and downsizing I am talking about retirement.

Although the state of the global economy is putting a little bit of a damper on the retirement plans of the baby boomer generation there is actually an upside to this delay. Companies have bought themselves some time to figure out a way to keep the knowledge of these pivotal workers in their companies.

You would be surprised at the amount of information that employees have in their heads.

There is the obvious stuff like processes, best practices, norms and values but then there is the arcane knowledge, the little things that can’t quite be categorized. People develop a rhythm to doing their jobs efficiently and that pattern isn’t necessarily ever documented. It develops over time as people get really good at what they do.  They have knowledge about the best way to get a supplier to give a discount or when to speak to a customer to get him to pay his invoice. They have knowledge about the social world of the company, including whom to avoid, who gets things done quickly, who to go to in another department to cut through bureaucracy and red tape. There are infinite examples but one thing is clear, some measures need to be put in place to try and capture this information before these people leave their jobs. Not doing this can end up affecting your bottom line.

What can be done?

Create a Mentoring Program

People do not necessarily want to be put out to pasture. The idea of retiring and having nothing to do is actually quite frightening to most people. What is very attractive to most people as they age is the idea of slowing down and not working quite so hard. Creating some programs that allow your older workers to transmit knowledge to the next generation while working fewer hours just might be a way for everyone to win.  Creating strong mentoring programs is a way of accomplishing this. Turn your older workers into teachers. Make this an important job. Let younger workers learn from them.

Exit Interviews for Knowledge Retention

We all know how important an exit interview is. It lets you in on information that people wouldn’t necessarily share with you if they were still going to be working for you.  Don’t interview retiring workers on their last day of work. Interview them repeatedly. Create brainstorming sessions where people can talk about their work and how they did it. While these sessions might be costly, think of how costly not knowing is to your company.

Harvest Company Information Regularly

Make it a policy to harvest information regularly. Don’t wait until a worker is leaving to try and find out what he or she knows. Have other people in the organization shadow them every once in a while. Having more than one person knowing how to perform a role goes a long way in sharing knowledge within a company.

Revere your Working Elders

Create a culture where elders are revered. To capitalize on the knowledge base of your older workers, you need to create a culture in your business whereby your seasoned veterans are looked up to and respected. Make your appreciation for their contribution known and celebrate the time that they have spent helping to grow your organization.

Don’t get caught off guard when people leave your organization. Make sharing knowledge the norm in your company. In the end, it will be the best way to retain it.

Cheryl is an Associate Certified Coach, a credential that is designated by the International Coach Federation. For more information, visit Stein Consulting and Coaching.