Can you fill the Knowledge Gap when you have Unexpected Vacancies?

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Bridge the Gap

What happens when you have an employee that has mission-critical knowledge and all of a sudden they are unexpectedly gone? It’s the unexpected part that always catches us by surprise, isn’t it? I mean who plans to get sick, injured, have a family emergency, be in an accident, or even die? But it happens every day in our business lives. So, can you fill the mission-critical knowledge gap of those employees that unexpectedly aren’t at work? Is this something that you have made a conscious plan to address within your organization, or are you vulnerable to the consequences of not doing so?

This is becoming more of a critical problem for organizations to consider and address, because to not do so is costing those organizations time, productivity, money and even customers. So, what are organizations doing to avoid this risk? Well, the smart ones are doing a number of things:

  1. They recognize the need for, and value of, the loss of employee knowledge and experience as an asset that must be harvested and protected.
  2. They develop an organized plan in which to identify, capture, retain and deliver that knowledge.
  3. They identify those employees that have the type of tribal knowledge and skill sets that are critical to their job, their department or the organization as a whole.
  4. Then they work with those employees to uncover that knowledge so that it can be captured, retained and protected.
  5. They create a structured logical repository in which to capture, store and then redeliver that knowledge to the people who need it, right when they need it.

Think of this as having a backup plan in which you can recover quickly from those unexpected losses. By having identified, captured and cataloged the knowledge that your key employees have, you will be able to tap into and leverage that knowledge when it is needed. This will go a long way in shortening that “Knowledge Gap” and the ramp-up time for those people who have to jump into that position and take over. That’s just smart business. But it amazes me at how few C-level executives understand this and recognize the need to do it until they are hit with the problem, and then it is too late.

As I alluded to earlier, this is clearly a form of risk management. Organizations need to be aware that there are employees in all types of positions – from factory workers, sales people, marketing, maintenance, engineering, Finance and Accounting, Human Resources, IT, customer service, shipping, administration, and especially your top-level managers over all of those departments – who have the type of knowledge that needs to be captured, retained and protected.

The other area of this knowledge gap that I need to touch on is the cost to replace that knowledge when it is gone. There are plenty of stories about employees leaving and not coming back and the high cost to replace the knowledge they had. Look at it this way, 30% of total R&D spends is wasted duplicating research and work previously done (IHS 2015 Research). They went on to say that 80% of problems that companies are currently handling are repeat issues.

What those statistics tell us is that organizations aren’t capturing the type of information or knowledge within their organization to eliminate or reduce those issues. But if they had a knowledge repository that not only captured their mission critical knowledge, but also the processes their people go through to deal with problems when they arise, they would be able to examine the root cause of those problems. They could also eliminate the duplication and wasted time spent on research and work that has been previously done.

So, those organizations that don’t have a plan in place to fill the knowledge gap that is created when they have unexpected vacancies will clearly suffer costly challenges when they occur. At least that’s the way I see it, what say you?

About the author:

Chuck Carey is an accomplished sales, marketing and business executive with more than 40 years of experience in the information technology industry. Chuck’s vast knowledge of the problems facing all types of organizations around identifying and capturing corporate knowledge makes him ideally suited to work with and consult in that area. If you would like to see if Chuck can help you and your organization please contact him through this website.


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