How to Combat the Knowledge Drain Effect

Big resignation. The big cabinet reshuffle. Big take off. By now you have certainly heard of, if not experienced firsthand, this huge phenomenon that we are experiencing. The pandemic has encouraged a period of reflection that has prompted many employees in all industries to explore new possibilities when it comes to their work, and as a result, people are leaving their companies in droves. According to the Department of Labor, 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in November 2021 alone — a record month to follow up on previous record months.

For companies, perhaps the greatest threat to these mass resignations is not only the risk of losing quality talent and productivity, but also the valuable corporate knowledge that these departing employees take with them – knowledge that may have been developed over the years and is fundamental to running day-to-day operations, or informing critical business decisions, Or guide future innovation.

While a great resignation may settle in over time, it has become clear that we will not go back to an employee’s work days in the long run. It’s time for organizations to accept the dynamism of a new workforce and deal with its inevitable effects, including corporate knowledge. Those who embrace this change—acting proactively when it comes to knowledge retention and transmission—are the ones who will come out on top.

When developing effective strategies to preserve, protect and share knowledge, we see two main approaches:

1. Create a culture that embraces, encourages and rewards knowledge sharing

Although some would argue that highly competitive work environments fuel creativity and productivity, they also implicitly encourage information hoarding. On the other hand, collaborative environments not only motivate teams to achieve better results collectively, but also reward individuals for showing up and sharing valuable knowledge that might otherwise remain hidden.

Sure, creating any kind of corporate culture takes time, but companies can use this unique moment in history—what some are calling a “Great Reset”—to speed up the process of culture change. Most companies are already adopting new ways of creating a community in the virtual office, figuring out how to get to know and supporting people when they’re not all together, and leveraging collaboration tools to make it easier to work remotely. These are all major steps toward a collaborative culture of knowledge sharing, even when colleagues are apart.

2. Look for technology to fill in the gaps

Before the era of the Great Resignation, it was the norm for resigning employees to document and pass on their knowledge through a series of outside sessions. But with turnover now occurring on such a large scale, and in scenarios where many employees may be leaving at once, such in-depth one-on-one deliveries are not always possible. Mass departures can also confuse new or remaining employees who are left scrambling to dig through all that information to see what is actually relevant or useful knowledge.

Technology can help greatly by enabling employees to have greater access to information, including historical information that was previously owned by their predecessors. There are dozens of solutions on the market today – enterprise content management systems, intranets, information archives, and more – that are useful for storing and organizing information. But information does not equal knowledge. It needs to be distilled, contextualized, consolidated with other relevant information and carefully organized into truly useful knowledge.

Employees need to be able to find exactly what they need at exactly the right time – it’s not easy in today’s world of work where dozens of tools we use (think: Slack, Zoom, Google Workspace, Microsoft Teams and more) are creating new hiding places. for our information. This is why the most effective tools are those that can aggregate all workplace data into one central repository and allow advanced search. Machine learning can be incredibly powerful in helping to understand the context of what is being stored, and providing the intelligence to see how important, up-to-date or accurate a particular piece of information is. It is such capabilities that can turn the “repository of information” into the “origin of knowledge”.

What’s behind the drain dam?

Maintaining and enabling better access to collective knowledge not only helps mitigate the knowledge drain impact of Great Resignation, it can also help retain current employees, which can slow this cultural shift on a much broader level.

Increasing access to knowledge helps people work smarter and more efficiently. It supports better decision-making, accelerates innovation and activates people’s passions and goals at work. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it can help restore human contact. At a time when many struggle to establish meaningful relationships with their colleagues, a culture of knowledge sharing creates space for collaboration and community even when people are physically apart. Those deep and lasting connections are where the magic happens, and where you generate value that spans across all areas of the business.


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