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Why You Should Never Underestimate the Power of Knowledge Retention

August 11, 2022

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Retaining what you learn can be difficult — and it’s not necessarily a sign of incompetence, especially when it comes to business-wide practices.

Of course, exposure and practice can make learning easier, but new talent may not have the same immediate access to knowledge that more seasoned team members have. Shifting employee landscapes make it hard to know what information is being lost and who isn’t fulfilling their potential because of a lack of access to learning.

That’s why it’s important to consider knowledge retention in your business practices. By ensuring that your knowledge stays in your business, you can make sure nothing gets lost over time.

What is knowledge retention and why does it matter?

Knowledge retention is the process in which we collect information and ultimately remember it.

Try to remember what you had for breakfast last Monday. Having a tough time accessing that info? That’s because your brain didn’t retain that knowledge (and for good reason).

Your brain automatically clears house over time to get rid of unimportant information. If you aren’t applying what you know or think of certain information as not being useful, you’re probably going to forget it. However, the Forgetting Curve is a very real threat to businesses.

A woman saying, "It has exited my brain."

Ebbinghaus’s Forgetting Curve shows that after learning something, the information disappears quickly over time. In fact, the average person will forget 90% of what they learned within the week.

For a business, this means that after a new training program, most of the attendees will forget details that aren’t immediately useful in just a few days.

By giving employees access to all the knowledge they need in a place they can revisit, you’re ensuring that they can find answers easily and quickly — especially when that knowledge is something they don’t use or engage with often.

At the micro level, this means that employees can start performing independently sooner, and with reassurance that they will always have access to support. At a macro level, this means that your company has a consistent source of information that keeps practices consistent and efficient.

What does knowledge retention look like?

So, how can businesses facilitate knowledge retention among their employees? There are a few ways you can go about this.

A great way to help employees retain information is by implementing a strong knowledge base.

Having a platform that allows employees to easily access information ensures that the Forgetting Curve doesn’t harm your business practices. Your knowledge base may include policy guidelines, SOPs, best practices, or important updates about your business practices.

You can also help employees retain information by having a substantial mentoring program. Having senior members of your team make an effort to keep everyone on the same page and provide consistent reminders of best practices means you’re helping with not only knowledge retention but also a collaborative work culture.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to revisit and clarify shared information — especially after meetings. Create agenda items to follow-up on so that shared information is consistently being used and applied, making it harder to forget.

What are barriers to knowledge retention?

Looking to promote knowledge retention within your company? Good thinking. But before you do that, there are some common barriers that you should be aware of.

1. Outdated knowledge and SOPs.

Whenever you update business practices, you’re making the previous knowledge obsolete. Take, for example, a transition to remote work at the start of the pandemic.

Updates can cause fractures in flow and may leave many of your employees confused — especially if prior procedures became habits.

2. High turnover rates.

Constant training and rehiring make it incredibly difficult to maintain smooth procedures, especially if it pokes holes in training practices.

Ineffective training and overwhelming onboarding programs are one reason businesses experience high turnover rates.

Plus, losing your experienced employees means losing a lot of tacit knowledge they have acquired in their time with your company. This knowledge is difficult to share, and losing your employees before you can access it yourself can have a lasting impact on procedures — especially if you’re losing leaders.

3. Lack of substantial training.

Slideshows and dry employee manuals aren’t enough to keep your employees engaged in their training. Low engagement and a lack of opportunities to apply learning will make it impossible for staff members to retain what they are learning.

Knowledge retention is a collaborative effort.

Ensuring that knowledge stays in the business should be a regular practice among your employees.

Start by getting everyone on board. Create opportunities for experts to share company knowledge and give new employees the time to engage with this knowledge.

Whenever you see your employees working together to retain knowledge, celebrate it!

A great way to get everyone involved in knowledge retention is to implement a knowledge base that allows them to share their knowledge with one another.

An LMS-alternative like Trainual lets you organize all your knowledge in one spot and allows you to train your employees with simple step-by-step processes.

How to create opportunities for knowledge retention

Embrace knowledge sharing.

Making knowledge sharing a core value in your business is an essential part of combatting difficulties with retention.

The more comfortable your employees feel asking each other questions, the easier it’ll be for them to retain that information together.

You can make your workplace a knowledge-sharing environment by adding easy ways for employees to access information, such as through a digital knowledge base.

Don’t discourage mistakes either! Make them learning opportunities and allow employees to ask the questions they need.

You can also identify experts that’ll be your go-to mentors for certain processes.

Allow these experts to lead meetings so that they can share their valuable insights with your team. Promoting mentorship in your organization is one of the keys to properly training new hires.

Ask for feedback — often.

Feedback from employees is rarely taken seriously. It isn’t uncommon to find employees who feel that their suggestions aren’t valued.

A man shredding paper before throwing it out the window and saying, "Thanks for your feedback."

Employee feedback is vital to the growth of your business. 

Just as you provide constructive feedback that aims to help employees perform better, your employees should be able to do the same for your business.

And this doesn’t mean just surveying your employees every so often. It means giving your employees an active role in the business and how it scales.

Conducting meetings to collect your employees’ feedback will make identifying pain points or unclear procedures a lot easier. The best way to know what employees aren’t retaining is to listen to what they struggle with. Approaching your knowledge retention difficulties directly makes for a smoother process and instills confidence in your leadership.

Update and streamline SOPs so they are comprehensive.

As your employees share their expertise and feedback, you’ll learn a lot about the way they approach difficulties in the workplace. You may even identify the pain points that make your business practices inefficient.

And if it’s broke, you’ve got to fix it.

Experts suggest that you update your SOPs every one to two years. This way, you can make sure your policies and procedures are appropriate, current, and clear.

Outdated policies or procedures are likely a reason for disconnect among your employees, forcing them to create their own solutions for new problems that arise.

When updating your SOPs, ask your employees how procedures could be improved as you collect feedback.

Create a list of processes that need updating, brainstorm ideas with experts and subject owners, and implement updates across the company.

Above all, make sure to inform all your employees of any updates being made. Hold meetings about the updates and allow them to interact with the revised procedures. Also, update your knowledge base so that it isn’t outdated.

Document your vital knowledge somewhere that can be revisited.

There’s never going to be a way to completely eliminate knowledge retention issues. No matter how many meetings you hold, there will always be employees who fall behind or forget.

A company wiki can help. When an employee has a question that they need answered, you can point them in the direction of a knowledge management system that has the answer.

Make documenting knowledge a regular procedure in your business so that everyone knows where to look for information. A one-stop shop for all your business’s knowledge, like a knowledge management system, will make it a lot easier for employees to access information — even if they can’t retain it.

Make new (and old) knowledge retainable

Keeping information in your business doesn’t have to be hard. By practicing some of the following safeguards, you can avoid the anxiety of losing important information:

  • Keep turnover rates low.
  • Create efficient and engaging training programs.
  • Establish a culture of knowledge sharing.
  • Ask for feedback and employee suggestions.
  • Document important information somewhere accessible.
  • Keep business practices up to date. 
  • Don’t underestimate the power of communication.

If you’re looking for a structured way to start documenting business practices, a knowledge management software is one way to get started.

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Article

Why You Should Never Underestimate the Power of Knowledge Retention

August 11, 2022

Jump to a section
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You're all signed up! Look out for the next edition of The Manual Weekly coming Wednesday am!
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Retaining what you learn can be difficult — and it’s not necessarily a sign of incompetence, especially when it comes to business-wide practices.

Of course, exposure and practice can make learning easier, but new talent may not have the same immediate access to knowledge that more seasoned team members have. Shifting employee landscapes make it hard to know what information is being lost and who isn’t fulfilling their potential because of a lack of access to learning.

That’s why it’s important to consider knowledge retention in your business practices. By ensuring that your knowledge stays in your business, you can make sure nothing gets lost over time.

What is knowledge retention and why does it matter?

Knowledge retention is the process in which we collect information and ultimately remember it.

Try to remember what you had for breakfast last Monday. Having a tough time accessing that info? That’s because your brain didn’t retain that knowledge (and for good reason).

Your brain automatically clears house over time to get rid of unimportant information. If you aren’t applying what you know or think of certain information as not being useful, you’re probably going to forget it. However, the Forgetting Curve is a very real threat to businesses.

A woman saying, "It has exited my brain."

Ebbinghaus’s Forgetting Curve shows that after learning something, the information disappears quickly over time. In fact, the average person will forget 90% of what they learned within the week.

For a business, this means that after a new training program, most of the attendees will forget details that aren’t immediately useful in just a few days.

By giving employees access to all the knowledge they need in a place they can revisit, you’re ensuring that they can find answers easily and quickly — especially when that knowledge is something they don’t use or engage with often.

At the micro level, this means that employees can start performing independently sooner, and with reassurance that they will always have access to support. At a macro level, this means that your company has a consistent source of information that keeps practices consistent and efficient.

What does knowledge retention look like?

So, how can businesses facilitate knowledge retention among their employees? There are a few ways you can go about this.

A great way to help employees retain information is by implementing a strong knowledge base.

Having a platform that allows employees to easily access information ensures that the Forgetting Curve doesn’t harm your business practices. Your knowledge base may include policy guidelines, SOPs, best practices, or important updates about your business practices.

You can also help employees retain information by having a substantial mentoring program. Having senior members of your team make an effort to keep everyone on the same page and provide consistent reminders of best practices means you’re helping with not only knowledge retention but also a collaborative work culture.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to revisit and clarify shared information — especially after meetings. Create agenda items to follow-up on so that shared information is consistently being used and applied, making it harder to forget.

What are barriers to knowledge retention?

Looking to promote knowledge retention within your company? Good thinking. But before you do that, there are some common barriers that you should be aware of.

1. Outdated knowledge and SOPs.

Whenever you update business practices, you’re making the previous knowledge obsolete. Take, for example, a transition to remote work at the start of the pandemic.

Updates can cause fractures in flow and may leave many of your employees confused — especially if prior procedures became habits.

2. High turnover rates.

Constant training and rehiring make it incredibly difficult to maintain smooth procedures, especially if it pokes holes in training practices.

Ineffective training and overwhelming onboarding programs are one reason businesses experience high turnover rates.

Plus, losing your experienced employees means losing a lot of tacit knowledge they have acquired in their time with your company. This knowledge is difficult to share, and losing your employees before you can access it yourself can have a lasting impact on procedures — especially if you’re losing leaders.

3. Lack of substantial training.

Slideshows and dry employee manuals aren’t enough to keep your employees engaged in their training. Low engagement and a lack of opportunities to apply learning will make it impossible for staff members to retain what they are learning.

Knowledge retention is a collaborative effort.

Ensuring that knowledge stays in the business should be a regular practice among your employees.

Start by getting everyone on board. Create opportunities for experts to share company knowledge and give new employees the time to engage with this knowledge.

Whenever you see your employees working together to retain knowledge, celebrate it!

A great way to get everyone involved in knowledge retention is to implement a knowledge base that allows them to share their knowledge with one another.

An LMS-alternative like Trainual lets you organize all your knowledge in one spot and allows you to train your employees with simple step-by-step processes.

How to create opportunities for knowledge retention

Embrace knowledge sharing.

Making knowledge sharing a core value in your business is an essential part of combatting difficulties with retention.

The more comfortable your employees feel asking each other questions, the easier it’ll be for them to retain that information together.

You can make your workplace a knowledge-sharing environment by adding easy ways for employees to access information, such as through a digital knowledge base.

Don’t discourage mistakes either! Make them learning opportunities and allow employees to ask the questions they need.

You can also identify experts that’ll be your go-to mentors for certain processes.

Allow these experts to lead meetings so that they can share their valuable insights with your team. Promoting mentorship in your organization is one of the keys to properly training new hires.

Ask for feedback — often.

Feedback from employees is rarely taken seriously. It isn’t uncommon to find employees who feel that their suggestions aren’t valued.

A man shredding paper before throwing it out the window and saying, "Thanks for your feedback."

Employee feedback is vital to the growth of your business. 

Just as you provide constructive feedback that aims to help employees perform better, your employees should be able to do the same for your business.

And this doesn’t mean just surveying your employees every so often. It means giving your employees an active role in the business and how it scales.

Conducting meetings to collect your employees’ feedback will make identifying pain points or unclear procedures a lot easier. The best way to know what employees aren’t retaining is to listen to what they struggle with. Approaching your knowledge retention difficulties directly makes for a smoother process and instills confidence in your leadership.

Update and streamline SOPs so they are comprehensive.

As your employees share their expertise and feedback, you’ll learn a lot about the way they approach difficulties in the workplace. You may even identify the pain points that make your business practices inefficient.

And if it’s broke, you’ve got to fix it.

Experts suggest that you update your SOPs every one to two years. This way, you can make sure your policies and procedures are appropriate, current, and clear.

Outdated policies or procedures are likely a reason for disconnect among your employees, forcing them to create their own solutions for new problems that arise.

When updating your SOPs, ask your employees how procedures could be improved as you collect feedback.

Create a list of processes that need updating, brainstorm ideas with experts and subject owners, and implement updates across the company.

Above all, make sure to inform all your employees of any updates being made. Hold meetings about the updates and allow them to interact with the revised procedures. Also, update your knowledge base so that it isn’t outdated.

Document your vital knowledge somewhere that can be revisited.

There’s never going to be a way to completely eliminate knowledge retention issues. No matter how many meetings you hold, there will always be employees who fall behind or forget.

A company wiki can help. When an employee has a question that they need answered, you can point them in the direction of a knowledge management system that has the answer.

Make documenting knowledge a regular procedure in your business so that everyone knows where to look for information. A one-stop shop for all your business’s knowledge, like a knowledge management system, will make it a lot easier for employees to access information — even if they can’t retain it.

Make new (and old) knowledge retainable

Keeping information in your business doesn’t have to be hard. By practicing some of the following safeguards, you can avoid the anxiety of losing important information:

  • Keep turnover rates low.
  • Create efficient and engaging training programs.
  • Establish a culture of knowledge sharing.
  • Ask for feedback and employee suggestions.
  • Document important information somewhere accessible.
  • Keep business practices up to date. 
  • Don’t underestimate the power of communication.

If you’re looking for a structured way to start documenting business practices, a knowledge management software is one way to get started.

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Why You Should Never Underestimate the Power of Knowledge Retention

August 11, 2022

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