Using a knowledge transfer plan to retain important data when key employees leave
by David Swider
June 26, 2019

What would happen if your most experienced employees left your company? What would happen if the ones who were most instrumental in your organization’s growth and development moved on tomorrow, no longer available to contribute their knowledge? They understand the industry, how your business operates and your pathway to success. So, what would you do if they were no longer around? 

In an instant, you would lose decades of experience, problem-solving and that “secret sauce,” that “been there, done that” type of knowledge, which built the foundation of your company’s success.

Can you even imagine the impact of such a loss from a financial and productivity standpoint? It’s a scenario that can keep any business owner up at night. Now, more than ever, it’s critical for companies to find ways to capture and leverage those “years between the ears” from their most valued team members before it’s too late. 

The good news is that there are ways to minimize the impact of losing those who hold years of knowledge when they walk away with their retirement package. 

Build a Knowledge Library

The first step is to immediately bridge the gap between newer, less experienced team members and your seasoned veterans before it becomes an issue. Of course, this is often easier said than done. The key is to find a common ground by benchmarking, or creating a historical knowledge library.

Whether the information is kept in gray matter or on a pallet of drawings within a railroad car storage unit full of three-ring binders, the information is yours. You’ve bought, paid and certainly earned it. So, start capturing the data and, more importantly, start leveraging it. 

Technology is making it much easier to leverage your data. Now, you can create, build and maintain a centralized knowledge base for your projects. With the right digital tools, your newer employees can instantly reference past projects, performances and the personnel involved to draw insight from lessons learned over many years. Then, they can quickly apply that knowledge to current and upcoming projects. 

This historical repository captures years of experience in a digital format that may be used again and again, even if your resident expert seeks residency elsewhere or retires. Simply put, your best practices, expertise and experience can live on for the greater good and health of your company, regardless of personnel.

Get Employees on Board

The second step is to leverage those years of experience. With a knowledge library in place, you’ve already given your junior team members a way to look at and learn from historical projects and similar past-work details instead of starting each project from a clean sheet of paper, which saves time, reduces risk and improves overall outcomes. 

Your knowledge library can create a collaborative way to coach new employees and avoid project pain points. Today, technology can be used to build consensus on various aspects of project planning.

New and veteran workers can use technology to review plans with senior project engineers, project managers and other key stakeholders who can share their experience and expertise on risks, ideas, opportunities, issues and change requests. 

The project plan you create when you build consensus across your entire team will set you up for success. More importantly, you will grow your company’s experience and understanding, empowering your new and seasoned, burly-knuckled professionals (men and women alike) to continuously improve through a collaborative effort.

Connect Workers

We’ve examined how to help bridge the gap between your veterans and rookies. The other question now becomes, “Where does that rich information live?” 

To be able to truly leverage companywide lessons learned, you need to gain control and maximize productivity over capital construction projects. When is the last time you took inventory of how many different systems are really at play within your organization? 

Each of these systems holds pieces of your project’s history and detailed reference information. Sure, key players may know where that vital information resides, but do all your team members know where to find it? Probably not. 

More than ever, companies need cloud-based technology to instantly connect users to information, anytime and anywhere. The use of a collaborative document-management system provides companies with a searchable repository of crucial documents, drawings and communications that can be accessed instantly at their fingertips.

Imagine having an intelligently integrated, cooperative solution where you can link and create relationships between different project items, such as emails to requests for information; tasks to photos; and photos to documents. You would gain a higher degree of contextual project understanding and be able to analyze your data more completely. 

You would also have easy access to data that assists in making more accurate and timely project decisions. With a document-management system, your company can keep critical information in the hands of your folks, no matter who is on staff at the time. 

And your newer team members can have instant access to a data, including information that may have been lost with your seasoned veterans when they departed. You could be able to easily coordinate and synchronize project documents and communications while making them easily accessible to anyone who needs them. 

Too often, business owners fail to think about the consequences of losing strong team members until it’s too late. Taking advantage of today’s industry-centric technology will eliminate the loss of veteran knowledge and transform your company in a way that gives it a “no fear—we captured the years” mantra. 

Once you have your knowledge library captured digitally, go ahead and wish your folks a happy and peaceful bon voyage. Meanwhile, you can rest assured with the confidence and comfort that you have accurately retained the reams of data vital to your organization’s success. CBO