Gil Becker is CEO and Chairman of AnyClip, the AI-powered online video platform. Tweet to him @Becker_Gil
As I write this, chances are a certain percentage of your employees are eyeing their next steps. Maybe they’re idly browsing LinkedIn; maybe they actively meet recruiters. Unfortunately, turnover is a given in business. But while when an employee leaves is largely out of your control, there is is something you can have a say in, which is how much your company loses when they walk out the door.
Think for a moment about the dense storage of institutional knowledge that lives in the mind of every employee. Every decision made in business was made for a reason and only the person (or persons) who made it can tell you what that reason was. And that’s the least of what’s lost when a key team member jumps aboard. For example, they know the best practices of a particular department, such as the tricks to maximize the uptime of a complex server farm at minimal cost. Or the small details of software architecture, where an innocent-looking change could cause business chaos. Or the general knowledge of the market/competitors that arises automatically when you have worked for years in a certain position.
All of this means that when a long-term team member leaves, you don’t just lose them – you lose all of the company knowledge and intellectual property they’ve accumulated in the time they’ve spent with your company. Preserving that knowledge before it’s gone should be a top priority for any business, especially in the age of remote work when institutional knowledge can be so much harder to rebuild. And I have a few ideas on how to do it.
Step 1: Make knowledge sharing a priority before employees leave.
Once someone has decided to leave, the last few weeks in the office are rarely the most productive – we all know that. That’s why it’s so essential to capture employee knowledge and make it accessible to their colleagues long before any particular employee even thinks about leaving. Not only does this reduce the need for frenetic offboarding, but it also allows everyone to take advantage of the employees’ knowledge at all times. Internal wikis can be hugely helpful here – think stubs on this or that client, project, platform, etc.
Another useful tool in this arena is video. Marketers already know that people prefer video over text—72% of consumers preferably get to know products or services via video. This applies to everything, including internal work communication. According to a study, 58% of employees “would rather watch an on-demand explanatory video than ask a colleague for help.” That’s why making video a habit in the office — encouraging employees to record instructional clips once a month or even once a week — can reap huge benefits over time.
The point here is to encourage internal knowledge production and retention – to make it a real part of the job. To this end, you can reward people for creating resources that other colleagues regularly use. You can also start identifying and praising star performers and ask them for recorded seminars or introductions on internal policies, platforms, etc.
Step 2: Take advantage of the knowledge you are already creating.
As important as employee-produced videos and wikis are, they’re only part of the equation. The fact is that your employees continuously generate information-rich content without even realizing it. Take video calls, for example: in the age of working from home, these are largely where business is done.
The problem is that these take place on private computers and – if ingested – end up in personal clouds or disks. By placing these meetings in a centralized internal portal, which everyone in the company can access, the knowledge remains accessible even when the person who generated it is no longer with the company. Given the challenges inherent in building long-term institutional knowledge in the distant era, this is no small matter.
Step 3: Make sure that the information people need can actually be found.
Of course, once you start storing all this information, you will soon find that you have a huge amount of content. Which brings me to my next point: information is only useful if it is organized and accessible. The average worker spends 2.5 hours a day looking for the information they need to do their jobs – time that could be spent more productively, if only organizations made it easier for them to find what they needed.
Therefore, you cannot overestimate the benefits of AI, which is rapidly changing the face of knowledge retention. For example, in the text arena, AI solutions enable companies to: upload, organize and search huge archives of otherwise hard-to-access documents. Banks or insurance companies can easily use AI to digitize physical files, making it much easier for employees to find the information they need.
The same logic applies to video. Thousands of scattered videos are of no use to anyone. On the other hand, centralized, easy-to-search video storage can make a real difference to your employees’ work day. AI can automatically tag everything in a given video, including both what was said and who said it. Accordingly, actually tracking down what you need to know becomes as easy as typing a search query. Knowledge circulates freely and things get done faster.
Step 4: Begin the formal offboarding process.
Once you have your system in place, the actual offboarding process becomes much less stressful. After all, the knowledge of your departing employee is already stored in easily searchable text documents and videos. The job now is to try and secure those last missing pieces of information before your employee walks out the door (or logs out of the company Slack permanently).
I recommend scheduling a formal offboarding session, where relevant employees can ask questions. I also recommend that you record it, even if it happens offline, and add it to your company’s video management system.
It’s always sad to see a colleague leave, but knowing they won’t take all of their knowledge with them just makes it a little more bearable. A proactive attitude towards knowledge retention can greatly facilitate the offboarding process and make things much easier for those who come next.