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Defeating High Employee Turnover with Knowledge Management Tools

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Defeating High Employee Turnover with Knowledge Management Tools

Jun 21, 2017   |  By
Sandra Lupanava | ScienceSoft

In our last blog post, our featured author discussed how "knowledge change is not a technology project."  This week our author presents the case for the use of tech tools especially in dealing with issues of employee retention.  Endorsement of specific vendors by KMI should not be implied.

Implemented in organizations with high employee turnover, knowledge management tools are not only to facilitate knowledge accumulation and transfer but also to stimulate employees’ engagement and retention. Here how it works. 

According to the 2016 BenchmarkPro survey, the average employee turnover rate in the USA equals 18.1%. While the highest rates are characteristic of the states with a lower median household income such as Montana (23.0%), Oklahoma (22.1%), Idaho (21.5%) and New Mexico (21.5%), turnover rates in the richest US states are also above the ‘healthy’ 10-15% - Maryland (19.1%), Massachusetts (17.1%), California (16.8%), New Jersey (16.4%). High employee turnover is a true headache in such industries as retail, healthcare, banking and financial services, as well as the IT sector where employees rarely stay with a company longer than a year.

How high employee turnover impacts organizational knowledge

In terms of knowledge management, high turnover rates mean that companies can face multiple knowledge-related challenges, including:

  • lost knowledge if employees leave and don’t transfer their valuable knowledge in any form
  • knowledge leaks if employees leave and reuse acquired knowledge at their new workplace
  • knowledge transfer and constant learning required any time to introduce newcomers to their work
  • knowledge gaps that (re)appear in different knowledge domains, and more

If left unaddressed, these challenges can lead to discontinued business processes and cause serious mistakes that will end up with lost money and damaged reputation.

Why turn to a knowledge management system?

With so many knowledge-related risks, organizations with high employee turnover can do nothing but turn to knowledge management to achieve the following goals:

  • Make the turnover less painful and hire new employees with the needed knowledge level quicker
  • Facilitate regular employees’ work in an unstable environment and reduce their efforts on transferring knowledge to newcomers
  • Support productive teamwork
  • Minimize newcomers’ mistakes and eliminate knowledge gaps
  • Create incentives to retain employees

Now, let’s analyze how companies can achieve these goals through relevant knowledge management tools and techniques.

Good news for those who already use SharePoint: turning to SharePoint consultants or developers, they can adapt the platform to knowledge management needs.

Outlining workforce gaps with a knowledge map

Usually, organizations create a knowledge map to structure corporate knowledge and understand if its current level is enough to cover particular business needs. Besides that, companies can use their knowledge map to smartly and timely find new employees. By identifying key knowledge areas essential to business processes, organizations can mark out risky areas and relevant knowledge owners. Guided by the map, HR managers can form and support a base of candidates suiting critical knowledge areas and find employees with specific knowledge faster.

Automating knowledge transfer

Constant staff changes disturb regular employees. That’s a real nightmare for experts who should transfer their knowledge to newcomers over and over again. With this in mind, it’s reasonable to automate knowledge transfer to key knowledge owners’ relief. For example, an organization can create a dedicated knowledge center for newcomers to access the working materials prepared by experts and study them. To check up their knowledge, newcomers can take relevant tests right in the KM system. Test results will be then presented to a line manager and an expert. If results are unsatisfactory, a knowledge owner can schedule individual training. This way, an initial knowledge transfer can be fully automated or coupled with only a few one-to-one consultations, which reduces experts’ involvement substantially.

Storing team knowledge on collaboration sites

The value of collaboration sites at companies with high employee turnover increases dramatically. When team collaboration takes place in a single collaboration hub (these can be dedicated SharePoint team sites), a new team member will be able to learn the collaboration history, view project-related documents, get consultations of teammates and dive into the working process much easier.

Eliminating mistakes due to knowledge gaps

To minimize mistakes made regularly by newcomers, companies can use at least two knowledge management tools. First of all, a centralized knowledge base with well-structured instructions and recommendations can guide newcomers throughout their working process. Secondly, newcomers can use a knowledge map to quickly identify knowledge owners and connect them in order to ask for a piece of advice and solve problematic or complex tasks successfully.

Reducing employee turnover with a knowledge management system

Unfavorable corporate culture, boring or unimportant work and the lack of recognition are constantly on the list of popular reasons to quit a job. To change this, companies can use their knowledge management system to create comfortable working conditions that will stimulate employee retention.

Recognizing employees’ contribution and ensuring personal growth

A knowledge management system can include a system of points attributed to employees who regularly contribute to the development of organizational knowledge (develop a particular knowledge domain, organize a community of practice, make research work, etc.). ‘Knowledge’ points can be included in a personal development plan so that employees could see their professional advance, as well as into employees’ general rating for line managers to reward top contributors with relevant incentives.

Turning off stress and enabling a supportive working environment

Employees are always afraid to make a mistake especially if they don’t have the needed knowledge and can’t find it anywhere. Provided with strong search capabilities, a knowledge management solution will allow employees to find relevant pieces of knowledge or knowledge owners who can assist a newcomer in solving a particular task. With the possibility to contact experts and teammates, employees will feel more comfortable at work, which increases employees’ satisfaction and confidence.

Creating extra opportunities

Companies can also think about giving extra opportunities to their staff. For example, employees can share their ideas and store them in a bank of ideas located in the knowledge management system. Best insights will be then discussed with line managers and experts and turned into real projects. This is how employees will get a chance to implement their own project and advance in their career.

Even one KM activity can bring several outcomes

Obviously, companies struggling with high employee turnover are focused on replacing employees and keeping business processes uninterrupted. Due to impressive investments into HR management, they can cut other corporate investments, especially the ones into such activities as knowledge management. However, it’s not always right.

High employee turnover is an exceptional situation when even scattered KM activities can be of a great value. Companies can adopt at least one of the described solutions to get multiple outcomes at once. For example, having a knowledge map on their hands, companies can simplify the hiring process and invigorate the connection between newcomers and experts, while collaboration sites will support knowledge transfer, uninterrupted teamwork and the introduction of newcomers to the working process.


About the author:  Sandra Lupanava is a SharePoint Evangelist at ScienceSoft, a software development and consulting company headquartered in McKinney, Texas. With her 5+ years in marketing, Sandra voices SharePoint’s strengths to contribute to the platform’s positive image as well as raise user adoption and loyalty. Today Sandra advocates harnessing SharePoint’s non-trivial capabilities to create business-centric, industry-specific innovation and knowledge management solutions. 

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