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Don't Let Retiring Employees = Lost Knowledge

Knowledge-transferOne of our favorite go-to blogs by Wika, Instrument Guru, has a timely article on the importance of preserving your institutional knowledge.

With so many veteran engineers and technicians retiring, it’s worth the time to create a plan to transfer their knowledge to your new employees.

Many businesses count on their employees to pass on institutional knowledge from one generation of employee to the next, and the sooner you have a process in place the better. Especially since the millennial generation that is replacing these veterans is not averse to job-hopping.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average job tenure in the U.S. is 4.6 years, but it’s only half that for millennials: 2.3 years. Plus, demographic trends ensure we will see a growing number of millennials in the workforce. The BLS projects that millennials will represent 75% of the U.S. workforce by 2025.

The best way to preserve your company’s institutional knowledge is to document your operational and maintenance processes to ensure a seamless transition in times of worker turnover and WIKA suggests creating a living document to protect that knowledge.

Knowledge-leftA good article by Andrew Peña in Workforce , When Knowledge Left the Building, suggests that another way to address the risk of losing knowledge as a result of boomer retirements is to exercise a workforce assessment, documenting and identifying critical knowledge held by existing employees.

Some successful organizations have enlisted the assistance of existing and departing retirees to serve as mentors instead of simply showing them the way out the door. These retention methods have proven to be successful in curtailing the loss of institutional knowledge and transferring it to younger generations. Specialized training, documentation of processes, and job-sharing are a few of the ways to combat the loss of veterans.

Patrick Ibarra of The Mejorando Group has an excellent article on knowledge management to prevent years of accumulated wisdom from disappearing once the employee(s) retires or moves on. He suggests various types of knowledge retention strategies that can be utilized so critical knowledge does not “walk out the door.”

He states that the goal of the knowledge retention process is to preserve knowledge assets, enabling your company to:

  • Minimize the risk and cost of lost knowledge
  • Increase the speed to competence of individuals assuming new responsibilities
  • Build internal bench strength, thereby increasing employee retention
  • Create knowledge and skill repositories that support creative job and learning design
  • Lower training costs through re-purposing assets across various employee groups

Wiki-collaborationRon Ashkenas, in his article for Forbes, Three Ways to Preserve Institutional Knowledge, suggests using technology to create a process by which your team continually captures and curates institutional knowledge — to make it a living and evolving body of useful information that is accessible to people as they come into the organization.

Utilizing an internal wiki – a collaborative website – is helpful in this endeavor. In recent years, wiki software has entered the workplace, with companies like Socialtext, Atlassian, MindTouch and TeamPage rolling out business-friendly versions.

However you decide to go about it - now is the time to ensure that the years of knowledge stay within your organization as your veterans retire or employees move on.


Tribute, Inc. is a provider of business management software for hydraulic, pneumatic, process control  and automation distributors who provide design and fabrication services. Click for more information about TrulinX, our Windows-based software designed specifically for complex fabrication projects.