Written By: Edwin Hill - Partner and Founder, Jadex, LLC.
As baby boomers exit the workforce, companies see a steep decline in expertise. Presenting a challenge that many organizations are ill-equipped to handle. Iconic brands face the danger of losing their knowledge and specialized skills.
So how do we fix the problem, what is the best answer? How will businesses work to retain these valued skills and knowledge? We’ve heard creative solutions such as offering consultant opportunities or the flexibility to return for special projects. Yet, we still question if that is all we could be doing to resolve the issue.
Often band-aid solutions are applied to fix the impending disaster. Organizations task their most important business sectors with solving the problem for their respective areas. We see this as a stop gap that ensures the most critical information remains in the hands of those who need it; however what if we told you a band-aid wasn’t enough. What you actually need is surgery.
Leaders need to change their business models. Brands built on open work to spur creativity now need to enforce rules, policies, and governance. “That’s not how we do things here.” or “our culture doesn’t support that” are often heard in response to governance. A common misconception of governance is counterproductivity and lack of creativity. What if we told you these measures although foreign, would actually help solve your knowledge retention issues and doesn’t stifle creativity in the workplace?
Surgery won't be simple, solving the issue requires transparency meaning that all employees understand leadership's initiatives and allow for open feedback. As employees take part in the solution it generates engagement and value in the workplace.
Steps to Fix Your Knowledge Problem:
1) Loose the Command and Control Leadership Style
Rethink how you lead. Managers become coaches implementing input from Executive Leadership and present business problems to the whole company.
2) Identify Knowledge Areas
Shared freely with all employees, to show trust. Closed door meetings of executives and managers are a thing of the past. Open the doors to solicit feedback and constructive criticism.
3) Capture the Knowledge
Start with your teams, they are experts at what they do. Make it a priority that they document their processes and procedures so that the information is available for everyone within the organization. Try Internal wikis, content management systems, org charts, and personnel qualification standards.
4) Increase Transparency
Collaboration and sharing of information create transparency. Build org charts, wikis, and directories to create direct relationships and understanding of functional areas. This transparency allows for internal and external data to follow naturally.
5) Encourage Sharing
Most people tend to hoard their data and knowledge. This is usually a practice based in fear. Find out why teams, departments, and leaders are afraid to share information. Reinforce that job security isn’t at stake if they take the opportunity for sharing knowledge.
6) Empower People
Let your employees know their voice matters. As experts allow them to share their knowledge and experience.