Many organisations do not realise the magnitude of the problem they are facing with knowledge leaving the company, through retirement or resignation. The key responsibility of the organisation is to ensure the knowledge they have obtained through experience is passed on to their successor, or the knowledge is as least recorded.

Implement a succession plan

At Ashorne Hill, we recommend identifying potential retirees at least 10 years before retirement age, this is the time to implement a succession plan. The likelihood of individuals retiring early has increased dramatically, especially during Covid however the trend appears to have sustained. During the time prior to retirement the focus should be on transferring explicit knowledge to centralised databases, the retiree may have been tasked to complete this kind of indexed knowledge prior to this, but it is imperative the status of it is reviewed to provide enough time to improve/add if required. Once a successor has been confirmed, shadowing is the first step as tacit knowledge often cannot be easily expressed in written format. For clarity, an example of tacit knowledge would be the action of riding a bicycle, it may be simple to write ‘put your feet on the pedals and push’ but until someone sees it for themselves it’s often difficult to understand.

Preplanning 

Preplanning is also possible prior to the departure of a resignee. This is again through a centralised database, where people can ‘export’ their way of working so the next person coming in knows how to aptly complete their job role. When considering keeping knowledge in the company, another consideration is whether any action could have been taken to avoid an individual resigning. Conducting an exit interview should help avoid the prospect of further individuals resigning if you can pinpoint and improve an issue a previous resignee may have had. Many managers automatically assume that money is the main motivator for leaving a company however, according to Work Institute’s 2020 Retention Report, a lack of career development opportunities – often a significant result of an absence of learning and development – is the main reason employees are leaving their jobs.

Most organisations simply do not know the size of their knowledge exodus challenge, until it’s too late. The exodus can often just be seen as a fact of life – ‘people leave’. Forward-thinking organisations are aware of the magnitude of this issue and have appropriate and effective measures in place. It’s worth reviewing the issue, and the measures you have in place before gems of knowledge escape through the doors.