Preventing Institutional Knowledge Loss with Technology

“We’re getting along just fine without software.”

This is something I hear a lot when I’m talking to venue managers about the value that purpose-built CRM or comprehensive event management software could bring to their organization. These are folks that have been working in the industry for years (and/or have a key employee or two with considerable experience) and all the contacts and insider knowledge to prove it. They’re stars in their organization and they’ve got a process they’ve fine-tuned to perfection.

Here’s the question that always stops them in their tracks: What happens when you/they leave?

It’s a question nearly every industry faces; one made particularly more pressing as Baby Boomers begin to retire en masse, leaving behind a workforce largely made up of Gen Xers and Millenials with a noted tendency toward job hopping.

So how can you protect your organization from losing vital contacts and other business-critical knowledge when you lose an employee if the only place it exists is inside their head?

Technology Saves the Day

A 2006 study of knowledge retention and employee turnover in the U.S. electric power industry suggested that there are several ways to minimize the risk and associated effects of institutional knowledge loss, one of which has been put to great use by American Express who has found success through a phased retirement program that pairs younger employees with senior mentors and offers incentives for the participation of both parties.

Another strategy suggested by the research that has had wide success for organizations across several industries is the adoption of new technology to document and formalize valuable relationships and processes.

Think about it: if every lead, client and vendor is cataloged in a universally accessible database, along with their entire communication and/or order history –including frequency of communication, contact preferences and detailed notes –they are far less likely to experience the jarring disruption in service that is inevitable in the mad scramble to pick up the pieces when a star employee disappears.

Defense Beats Damage Control

I’m not suggesting that technology can or should replace a valuable employee. Certainly, the best-case scenario is never to lose a top performer in the first place (and having the mindset and retention strategies in place to prevent that). But vacancies are inevitable. Laying the groundwork necessary to absorb the blow is just good common (and business!) sense.

Do you have any additional strategies (or horror stories) for preventing knowledge loss to offer? Send me an This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or connect with me on LinkedIn. I’d love to hear your perspective!

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