It is a busy afternoon when one of your most experienced employees enters your office and hands over a piece of paper. You don’t necessarily notice how tense they are as you flip open a letter that reads “Notice of Resignation” at the top. At first you feel a bit winded – the team is mid-project with the client breathing down your neck and now this? Then comes the realization – if this person leaves there will be a sudden gap to fill – somebody will need to pick up the slack.

CEO’s take note: Employee Turnover is Knowledge Turnover

Employee turnover is more than just about replacing one individual with another. People who work in an organisation form part of a shared mind – the relationships they build and maintain allow them to be productive and add value. When people leave an organisation these relationships are strained and more often than not broken. It is almost as if losing a productive individual is like losing a part of the “company mind.”

For this reason employee turnover is actually knowledge turnover. Every time an individual leaves your company, you lose their knowledge and insights. When this happens your business may take some time to adjust during which you may experience a loss in income and an increase in expenses. You cannot keep the person from leaving your company and your biggest risk is losing their productive essence. This person has a specific way of solving problems and completing tasks all of which eventually results in their productive contribution to your market.

HR Managers take note: Employee Retention Often Fails

Employee retention strategies normally involve offering employees financial incentives to stay in their positions. What we’ve learned through our experiences is that there is a tipping point where the value of more money is outweighed by the value of comfort, happiness and the enjoyment of personal growth. Employee retention strategies typically fail when an employee is placed under longer term stress where the quality of their work experience deteriorates. When this happens the employee will rarely be able to put a financial value on their health and wellbeing.

Best advice – Retain Productive Essence

The productive essence of an individual relates to the techniques and methods they use to perform their work. These techniques and methods normally consist of a variety of steps taken to solve a given problem or fulfil a specific need. Even though it may not be possible to retain the employee, it is always possible to capture these techniques and methods in the form of automated systems. By doing so the productive essence of the employee is retained should they decide to leave the company. If they don’t these systems will simplify their workload and allow them to become more productive and happier.

The Best Strategy to Combat Knowledge Turnover

A knowledge retention strategy identifies the knowledge that the company is at risk of losing, clearly outlines the consequences of such a loss and identifies steps that can be taken to ensure that the knowledge is retained.

Here are some of the more common steps that can be taken to retain knowledge:

  1. Developing a knowledge base: Knowledge bases are not just for specific products, nor are they intended just for client service. A well-formed knowledge base can outline every process and procedure that a company may require to function smoothly.
  2. Implementation tracking: Last year I instituted a file naming convention at a client that was struggling with document version control. I was adamant that the file naming convention must be used at all times to ensure that file versions are clear and unambiguous. However, just this week I received a number of files from the client, none of which were created using the file naming convention. Implementation of new systems of policies must be properly tracked to ensure that they are fully adopted and therefore retained in the company culture.
  3. Automated systems: Whether we like it or not, the majority of the tasks we perform each day can be competently performed by a computer. Yet, many companies employ people to do these tasks, often at a slower pace and higher degree of inaccuracy. Capturing the knowledge of the experts in your company, and turning it into strategically aligned processes is the closest to capturing the productive essence of an employee. It is important to understand that one shouldn’t wait until these employees leave – rather, creating a variety of automated systems to replace manual tasks will allow the employee to have more time to focus on the really important things. If they want to leave the company you can rest assured that their intelligence is part of your company’s systems.

In a new economy that is dominated by information and knowledge a company without a knowledge retention strategy will almost certainly fail.

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