Why It’s Important to Transfer Knowledge and Subject Matter Expertise

  • 6 Min Read

Today’s organizations need to be able to protect the corporate brain trust.

Today’s workplace is increasingly dynamic and that’s made it more important than ever for organizations to effectively capture and share organizational knowledge and subject matter expertise.

Where in the past employees remained with an organization for their entire career, employee turnover today is the highest it’s been in 10 years. An employee’s average tenure in a job is now just 4.5 years.

Top listed US reasons why employees leave their organizations:

  1. Promotion (19%)
  2. Other (16%)
  3. Career changes (14%)
  4. Retirement (11%)

Whatever the reason for leaving, employee turnover costs employers big bucks. It is estimated turnover costs US companies alone $160 billion a year. Loss of knowledge, valuable skills, and experience, as well as associated costs related to recruitment such as time to productivity, create a highly compelling business case for employers as to why they should develop a solid strategy for capturing and sharing organizational knowledge and subject matter expertise in the workplace.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the root causes of employee turnover and examine how learning and development organizations can leverage modern learning to offset the challenges turnover creates.

Restless Millennials and Employee Turnover

Oh, those 26 to 35-year olds; they’re hungry for knowledge and opportunities to advance their careers. It’s hard to keep some of them in their seat let alone a job for five years or more. Millennials now make of 35% of the US workforce and represent the largest generation of active workers. If they feel disengaged at work, they are difficult to retain. According to recent Deloitte data, only one-third of millennials feel their employer is using their skills well and 42 percent say they are likely to leave because they are not learning fast enough.

In this context, knowledge transfer is first about satisfying employees’ desire for ongoing knowledge and learning opportunities in order to retain valuable workers. Second, it’s about knowledge preservation—maintaining the corporate brain trust. According to Gallup, 60 percent of millennials indicate they are open to a new job, 21 percent have changed jobs within the past year, and millennial-related turnover costs the U.S. economy $30.5 billion annually. Employee turnover is of course, not solely the preserve of millennials. Promotions, job, and career changes happen at every level in an organization and at every age. Employers should put appropriate measures in place to ensure valuable organizational knowledge and subject matter expertise is retained and doesn’t walk out the door.

A millennials-friendly way to transfer organizational knowledge and subject matter expertise

The way people learn has changed. Modern learners, millennials in particular, have pretty specific learning preferences. For example, 86 percent of YouTube users say they use the platform to learn new things, and millennials are 2.7 times as likely to prefer learning something new by watching a YouTube video rather than reading a book. Leveraging video tools within a modern learning is an effective means of facilitating modern learner (and millennial) knowledge acquisition, transfer and retention. Immediate, easily accessible from a mobile phone, and right up the YouTube generation’s alley, employers can use video as part of the kind of on-demand, personalized, self-led learning strategy for millennials and other modern learners.

Find out more about Social Assessment and how you can use it in the workplace

Retiring boomers and the growing knowledge gap

At the other end of the turnover spectrum, there’s generational turnover—people in the workforce who are now retiring or approaching retirement. With 10,000 baby boomers retiring from the workforce each day, employers are having to contend with filling vacant positions and growing knowledge gaps within their organizations. Tackling this retirement driven “brain drain” challenge requires finding new and efficient ways to capture and transfer existing knowledge before it’s lost. To that end, employers should look to include opportunities for cross-generational knowledge transfer within their organization’s learning and development strategy. They should also engage in deliberate succession planning, putting leadership development plans in place to groom high potential employees for more senior roles.

How experienced employees can share their knowledge and expertise

Once again, video presents a highly accessible, easy-to-use way for senior employees to impart their knowledge to their less experienced colleagues, and for organizations to efficiently capture their knowledge and subject matter expertise.

  • Consider pairing up retiring workers with younger counterparts for reciprocal coaching sessions, where feedback can be shared via video-based Social Assessment.
  • Leaders can use video to vlog, sharing day-in-the-life wisdom, tips, best practices, and words of advice.
  • A senior salesperson can use video to walk colleagues through their approach to the sales process or to share the story behind a key win or a significant loss.
  • Technical experts can use video-based screen sharing to describe a specific workflow or coding tip, or walk a team member through their approach to problem-solving or their method for troubleshooting a tough technical challenge.

Learn how you can maximize coaching as a driver of business success

Retraining and reskilling

In addition to the turnover challenges presented by increasing employee turnover, job hopping millennials, and retiring boomers, the workplace is experiencing a growing skills gap created by rapidly advancing technology. Employers are now having to regroup when it comes to retraining and reskilling employees, in an attempt to prepare them for roles tomorrow that we can’t even imagine today. Currently, the half-life of a learned skill is only five years and today’s employees are now facing the prospect of a career spanning 60 to 70 years. Plus, it’s been projected that as many as 375 million workers, or roughly 14 percent of the global workforce, may need to change occupational categories as a result of advancements in automation, digitization, and artificial intelligence.

While rapid technology advancement may be a root cause of future workforce turnover and change, it can also be part of the answer by helping employers to better facilitate the retention and transfer of organizational knowledge and subject matter expertise. Mobile devices can be used to capture and share information from skilled workers wherever and whenever, building content that documents best practices and is accessible to other employees at the point of need.  As mentioned previously, modern learning platforms can serve as a centralized repository for that information and can also enable collective and collaborative learning amongst employees.

So, what can employers do today to protect their brain trust and defend against employee turnover and retirement?

Here are five things every organization should consider:

  1. Facilitate intergenerational knowledge sharing using efficient, readily available and easy to adopt means such as (mobile) video.
  2. Build coaching and mentorship opportunities into succession planning and use modern learning platforms to capture and curate content for future reference.
  3. Leverage video-based Social Assessment to allow for in the moment feedback, learning reflections and practical application of learning.
  4. Consider the role technology can play in capturing and disseminating valuable organizational knowledge and subject matter expertise at the point of need.
  5. Make learning and the quest to close the skill gap an organization-wide mission.

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