Following up on our last post on the value of tacit knowledge and the three common culprits behind knowledge loss, let’s look at four key strategies for fighting back and preserving your team’s hard-won knowledge.
Since knowledge retention is first and foremost knowledge sharing, we need to figure out how to ease fears around job security and foster a culture of openness. Kathir Haran, a Solutions Engineer at Fiix, offers this piece of advice: “When you’re building a maintenance program out, make sure you have every single stakeholder, including the person turning the wrench, in on that decision.”
Knowledge retention is first and foremost knowledge sharing.
When maintenance professionals of every seniority level are looped into the process of building out a maintenance program, they see information sharing as a gain instead of a loss. Their contribution is more visible to senior personnel, which turns their knowledge into an asset.
The same concept also applies to experienced teams that already have built-out maintenance programs. The key is employee recognition. Since the maintenance industry is never standing still, every process improvement or upgrade presents an opportunity to include every stakeholder, especially the technicians running the processes. Loop them in, Kathir says, and “they’ll be much more open to telling you all of the details.”
This is the practice of training your workers to fill multiple different, often related roles. It’s also an important ally in the fight against knowledge loss. It helps your team reduce the impact of turnover and protect knowledge when someone leaves. And as a bonus, it helps you improve schedule efficiency. So how do you get employees on board with cross-training?
It’s all about highlighting the benefits of sharing knowledge, says Kathir.
“You don’t always work on weekends, you don’t always want to be on call or on nights,” he says. “On a team with shared skillsets, if one person is not available, you have another person willing to come in and do that work. It gives you that added flexibility.”
This kind of cross-training is especially critical between older and younger employees as the older generation gets set to retire. And don’t worry about compliance–a lot of the older employees, in Kathir’s experience, “were happily passing that information on to somebody else so that they didn’t have to come in on weekends.”
It’s important to emphasize that the benefits of knowledge sharing don’t just accrue to the organization–they help the worker.
Simplification & documentation
I’m combining these two, because the simpler something is, the easier it is to teach and learn. And for our purposes, that also means easier to retain and document. Just by implementing a CMMS like Fiix into their workflow, maintenance teams will have already made the biggest and most important stride toward both simplifying and documenting their maintenance work. But since you’re already a Fiixer, allow me to offer a few simple tips on using your CMMS to bolster knowledge retention.
Use your asset notes. The asset notes feature in Fiix enables you to easily and securely store relevant materials for future reference. Looking for ideas on what to add to the asset notes? Try these:
Job shadowing + Fiix. Equip your new hire with Fiix (on a mobile device) and pair them with a veteran employee. As they learn through job shadowing, they’ll be able to add all the useful tidbits of information they pick up along the way directly to your Fiix CMMS (in asset notes, for example!). This is a great way to do your onboarding and capture critical asset and process data at the same time.
Appoint a knowledge retention champion. This is your team’s documenter: someone knowledgeable, detail-oriented, and sociable. You may even consider carving out some time apart from regular job duties to give your champion the time needed to document your team’s unwritten knowledge.
- Say something! It doesn’t have to be a grand speech, but let your team know about knowledge loss and the threat it poses to your organization. Since knowledge retention is all about sharing, just breaking the ice on this topic is a huge stride forward.
I’d love to hear your stories
Now that you’re familiar with some of the common causes of knowledge loss and the pillars of knowledge retention, I’d love to get some of your input. How do you approach knowledge retention and combat knowledge loss on your team? Any good stories of a time a key member left and the impact it had on your team?
Comment below with your knowledge retention (or knowledge loss) stories!