Reduce Employee Turnover (and Its Impact) Using Knowledge Management
Any business owner who’s ever lost a high-performing employee will tell you it didn’t lead to great things for their organization.
First of all, employee turnover can cost companies up to 213% of the individual’s salary. Looking at productivity, it can take organizations up to two years to bring new hires up to the same level of efficiency as their high-performing predecessor.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to completely avoid employee turnover. In fact, the US Bureau of Statistics reports that the annual employee turnover rate is anywhere from 12-15%.
But, this doesn’t mean you should just accept employee turnover as a sunken cost to your business.
It’s in your company’s best interest to do everything you can to keep your employee turnover rate to a minimum. Moreover, you want to ensure that when turnover does rear its ugly head, it won’t do all that much damage to your business.
In this article, we’re going to discuss how a proper approach to knowledge management (KM) can help you keep your best employees on board for as long as possible—and can minimize the pain felt if they do leave.
Whether directly or indirectly, a solid knowledge management initiative can significantly reduce employee attrition and the issues it may cause for your business. Let’s take a closer look at what we mean.
Knowledge Management Fosters Engagement
A more engaged workplace leads to lower turnover.
That’s according to a 2017 report by Gallup, showing companies with highly-engaged employees saw 67% less turnover than their competitors.
And, as a 2016 report from Malaysia University shows, effective knowledge management leads to an increase in overall employee engagement:
So: Knowledge Management → Employee Engagement → Employee Retention
There are a few reasons for this:
The consumer of knowledge has immediate access to the tools and resources they need to accomplish the task at hand. This enables them to overcome obstacles as they encounter them instead of having to wait for assistance from a third party. (Which, of course, would cause them to become disengaged in their work).
Additionally, the creators of your knowledge documentation will have more opportunities to become more engaged within your organization, as well. On a surface level, the very fact that they’re creating said documentation is proof of enhanced engagement.
On a deeper level, this provides your employees the chance to truly see how their efforts fit into the “bigger picture” of the organization. According to a 2019 report by TinyPulse, this ability to identify their value to their company—along with proper recognition from their company—is a key reason employees stay engaged and onboard for longer periods of time.
Whether promoting physical or mental engagement within your employees, proper knowledge management ensures your teams will stay focused on their duties to your organization.
Knowledge Management Strengthens Communication and Collaboration
Among the many reasons good employees often cite for leaving a position, two of the most common are poor communication and a lack of support. Effective knowledge management combats both of these issues.
KM is inherently all about improving communication and support throughout your organization. It involves not just creating knowledge documentation, but also developing the channels and platforms on which to distribute this information.
KM allows team members to easily communicate with one another and transmit information accordingly. This leads to enhanced collaboration—which in turn allows individual employees to maximize the value of their expertise.
Again, the more valuable your employees feel to the overall organization, the longer they’ll stay on board.
Employees also tend to stay on board longer if they feel like they truly fit into their company’s culture. Part of knowledge management involves allowing this culture to shine through in your documentation—making it easier for your employees to maintain alignment with your company’s overall mission.
Proper KM creates a flow of information throughout your organization. The easier this information flows to your various team members, the more likely they are to stick with your company well into the future.
Knowledge Management Creates Effective Onboarding Processes
Effective employee onboarding is vital for retaining new hires.
Case in point, a study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that nearly 70% of effectively onboarded employees stay with their new company for at least three years. On the other hand, poor onboarding is considered one of the key reasons new hires leave within this three-year period.
This just makes sense. If a new employee isn’t provided the tools and resources (i.e. instruction and guidance) they need to do their job, they aren’t going to be engaged in their work. If they aren’t engaged in their duties, they’re more likely to head for the door. Proper employee onboarding, then, requires proper knowledge management. With a firm grasp of KM, you’ll have a clear idea of:
- What your new hires will need to know as they get started in a new position
- How they can best go about completing their assigned tasks
- Who they’ll need to work with to best accomplish their duties
A new hire’s onboarding experience sets the stage for their tenure within your organization. Integrating knowledge management into your onboarding processes will keep your new employees engaged from the get-go.
Effective employee onboarding also shortens the two-year “catchup” period we mentioned earlier. Since your new hires will have everything they need to hit the ground running, it won’t take nearly as long for them to maximize their productivity levels.
In contrast, new hires at an organization that doesn’t provide proper onboarding will likely take at least two years to maximize the value they provide the company. That is, if they even stay onboard for that long in the first place…
So, with regard to employee onboarding, proper knowledge management can:
- Cause your new hires to stay onboard longer
- Allow your new hires to reach their full potential within your organization in a relatively short period of time
Knowledge Management Creates Value During Offboarding
As we said earlier, it’s impossible to avoid employee turnover altogether.
For a variety of reasons—many of which are beyond your control—your employees will eventually decide to leave your company as time goes on.
When an employee leaves an organization, they take with them the knowledge, skills and insights that allowed them to thrive in their position. For the company, this leaves a gaping hole that will need to be filled immediately. Of course this isn’t all that easy to do when starting from scratch, but with an effective approach to knowledge management, you won’t be starting from scratch whenever an employee leaves.
Rather, focusing on KM allows you to offboard your former employees so that you’re able to fill the hole they’ve left with relative ease. Your goal during this offboarding process is twofold:
- Capture the employee’s explicit knowledge regarding their specific tasks and responsibilities
- Generate insight regarding the employee’s implicit and tacit knowledge through performance assessments, discussions and exit interviews
In turn, you can use the knowledge left by your former employees to more effectively onboard your new hires. In terms of explicit knowledge, this information can be easily communicated to new employees being onboarded. Regarding the former employee’s implicit and tacit knowledge, you’ll be able to create experiences for your new hires to help them gain this insight quickly and efficiently.
In collecting and storing your former employees’ knowledge and insight, your organization will continue to benefit from their efforts long after they’ve left your company.
Knowledge Management Allows Your Employees (and Organization) to Grow
The TinyPulse report we mentioned earlier found that poor management, being overworked and having no room for growth are key reasons good employees decide to head for greener pastures. Notice how these three factors interrelate.
Poor management leads to inefficient processes, redundancies and wasted resources and energy. This causes employees to have to work harder than they need to in order to complete certain tasks—leaving them exhausted in the process. Because they’re already overworked after performing more basic tasks, they can’t focus on doing anything to spur growth within the organization.
“Growth,” in this sense, refers to both the individual and the company. If your individual employees are merely trying to stay afloat in their current duties, they won’t have the time and energy needed to invest in professional growth. If your teams are constantly scrambling to meet the company’s surface-level needs, they won’t have the capacity to make improvements to their current processes at all. A proper approach to knowledge management can alleviate these issues within your organization.
Overall, the goal of knowledge management is to enhance productivity and efficiency on an individual and company-wide level. The more productive and efficient your employees and teams are, the more resources they’ll have left to invest in growth opportunities.
On an individual level, this means more time and energy for:
- Self-reflection and assessment
- Professional development
- Recuperation (i.e. work/life balance)
On an organizational level, increased productivity leaves time and resources for:
- Identifying strengths and weaknesses within processes and overall company knowledge
- Proactive improvement upon these weaknesses before they’re encountered in a “real world” setting
- Company events focused on professional and personal development for individual employees and teams alike
Creating documentation of the knowledge your organization holds allows you to uncover gaps in this knowledge. But, because you’ll also have streamlined your current processes, your team—and your individual employees—will be able to focus on filling these knowledge gaps just as efficiently.
When your employees are able to grow as individual professionals and as members of your organization, they’ll be much more inclined to stay with your company for the long haul. As they continue to grow their professional skills and abilities, they’ll only become more valuable to your organization as time goes on.
Greg Storey, InVision’s Senior Director of Executive Programs, on standups and standing, evening escape plans and killing elephants.