4 Tips for Preserving Institutional Knowledge Amid High Employee Turnover

Preserving Institutional Knowledge

Businesses are losing employees at a staggering rate. Between layoffs, voluntary resignations, and retirement, organizations risk losing crucial institutional knowledge that informs business strategies and offers insight into customer behavior

Data suggests a new hire will spend 200 hours trying to reclaim expertise, and some of it may still be gone forever. That’s a lot of wasted time and lost value. Wouldn’t it be better to leverage expertise now — before employees leave — to improve proficiency across the board? Start by creating a knowledge bank. 

Why you need a knowledge bank

Workers at both ends of the career spectrum are leaving the workforce. The oldest workers are retiring, some earlier than expected, taking with them decades of institutional knowledge. Meanwhile, nearly 70% of surveyed millennials and Gen Zers are thinking about leaving their jobs in 2023. Organizations must preserve the knowledge of these workers before they leave so business continues as seamlessly as possible and new employees can get up to speed early in their tenure.

Beyond voluntary resignations, the current economic climate has forced many organizations to make difficult decisions about rightsizing their teams. So far in 2023, there has been a nearly 400% increase in layoffs compared to the same period last year. Companies are looking to save on long-term expenses by reducing their force, but laid-off workers can cost more than many organizations anticipated because of the knowledge gaps that are left behind. 

Experienced employees have an intimate understanding of the company’s product or service, its processes, its audience, and the industries it works within. When standout employees leave, all their experience goes with them. If an organization hasn’t established a procedure for retaining and sharing veterans’ know-how, remaining employees lose access to their insight and expertise. Consider these practical steps to capture this knowledge.

4 techniques to preserve institutional knowledge

Capturing valuable institutional knowledge can be intimidating, but the following tips will help you build a valuable repository.

1. Collect your experts’ institutional knowledge.

Organizations can use a variety of methods to collect institutional knowledge, such as writing a formal manual or relaying information orally. But more and more, people prefer video. Creating a short-form video is a particularly accessible and engaging way to gather priceless institutional knowledge. For example, high-performing sales reps can record sales calls to demonstrate best practices to newer employees as part of a sales enablement program. Additional recorded content could include:

  • Product information and technical specifications.
  • Company and industry best practices.
  • Solutions for common problems.
  • Expectations and demands in a changing market.
  • Evolving compliance guidelines.

2. Create an easily accessible database for your content.

After subject matter experts record their insights on important business topics, store the content in one central location so all employees can easily access it. When you categorize your materials, employees can quickly search and find what they need. Additionally, these videos and other materials will save your organization time and money on training. There may be startup costs for a repository, but the content keeps you from repeatedly paying for the same training in the long run.

3. Urge employees to revisit your content regularly.

Starting a new job always comes with challenges, but you can equip your new hires with the knowledge they need by integrating content into your onboarding process. With video, successful employees can lead by example, and as a result, new hires gain a better understanding of what to expect and how to excel. As your new employees settle into their positions, encourage them to regularly engage with the content to better retain and apply the valuable information.

4. Update your content often.

Markets change, customer expectations evolve and products and services improve. Because these parts are constantly moving, your content cannot remain stagnant. Regularly review your material to ensure it remains relevant. When updates are needed, call on your seasoned employees to help refresh the information. Additionally, ask employees to identify pain points or knowledge gaps so you can create content that specifically addresses those challenges.

An organization’s institutional knowledge is invaluable; preserving it doesn’t have to be overly complicated or rushed. Don’t wait until an employee submits their notice to act. An ongoing knowledge collection process ensures key information is captured and easily accessible to everyone now and when someone leaves the company.

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Amy Cohn

Chief People Officer at Allego

Amy Cohn, Chief People Officer of Allego, leads people and culture, striving to create an inclusive environment where all employees can be successful at work. She leads people operations and is responsible for the company’s talent development, recruitment, and retention. She is most energized by designing people-centric approaches to business opportunities. Prior to Allego, Amy served as Chief People Officer at Quickbase where she helped lead the organization through significant growth. Amy was also the HR leader at Localytics and Compete/Millward Brown Digital. Amy is a graduate of University of Oregon where she received a B.A. in Religious Studies..


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