Capturing company knowledge: What if a key person walks out your door?

If you walked out of your key role tomorrow, how easily could someone pick up where you left off?

IMG_1136Sure, your organisation might speedily fill your ’empty chair’ – but how much time will it take for its new occupant to build up the pivotal company knowledge you gained during your time there? And at what cost to leadership and productivity?

Is this a position you’d like to find your organisation or company in? The good news: there are ways to minimise this information loss.

The key question is: Do you have a plan in place to ‘capture’ your company knowledge?

In last month’s newsletter we posed the question, “What if we train our people and they leave?” leading to the question, “What if we don’t train our people and they stay?” We went on to discuss the risks associated with not developing your people to fill the skills needed in your company.

The answer to the first question is, yes; there are major risks associated with losing a trained employee. Not only do you lose a highly-skilled person but they also take all their learned company knowledge and intellectual property with them.

There are 2 types of company knowledge: Tacit and Explicit. Why is that important?

Simply put, tacit knowledge is ‘learning by doing’ and explicit knowledge is ‘learning by sharing’.

Harold Jarche, a thought-leader in workplace transformation, identified the transfer of tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge as one of the core challenges of capturing knowledge.

IMG_1024Tacit knowledge is, essentially, the minutiae of day-to-day information that goes far beyond the basic job description. It can be vast: anything from email contacts and personal interactions to daily job procedures. Capturing this tacit knowledge can be a real challenge, but, how many people actually take the time to sit down each day to document and capture this day-to-day activity? It is best done in informal settings, so if you wait until the exit interview, it may be too late and you’ll only graze the surface of the information you need to capture.

In a report by Altimeter Group on “Enterprise Social Networks, capturing company knowledge is one of four areas of business value. The other three include “encouraging sharing, enabling action, and empowering people.” The report indicates that social media outlets could be useful to a company in gaining insight into what trained employees don’t keep in writing. They suggest tracking knowledge through online activity such as profiles, activity streams, and interactions.

While capturing company knowledge might sound like a daunting task, it could mean huge pay-offs, such as reducing training time for new employees. A post by states, “Tacit knowledge can only be captured when it is found. Therefore, the key to successfully leveraging tacit knowledge within an organisation is to actually find the right people to solve the particular situation.”

The best practice for capturing company knowledge

Knowing what to look for and asking employees the right questions are two key steps toward capturing pivotal information.

Jan Alley & Associates have developed a process called PIPE or Profit Improvement through Performance Enhancement. It starts from the top, with your company goals, and cascades through the company, team, and role aims. By starting with the larger picture then narrowing your focus, you’re not only capturing explicit knowledge but also delving deeper into tacit knowledge. You’ll also be aligning your company focus at the same time.

The benefitsof capturing company knowledge are far-reaching

Consider the outcomes:

  • Identification of the key people and roles in your organisation
  • Discovering ‘the best ways to do things’: will mean a smoother workflow because of less time being wasted by new employees having to ‘figure things out’
  • Truly targeted recruiting because you will know exactly which skills and knowledge are needed for each role
  • Faster employee induction because you’ll know exactly what you need them to do
  • Clearer accountability because both employee and employer clearly understand what has been asked and agreed to

If you want to help to capture your company knowledge, give us a call on 09-579-8566 or email me

We’d be happy to give you a free introduction to PIPE either face-to-face or on Skype.


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