Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Retaining and Propagating Knowledge

Have you noticed it is a never-ending battle to keep yourself proficient? Things are changing every day. You are never done learning. And neither are your employees. No one can be expert in everything you do.

Personally, I hate everything to do with accounting. I don't want to learn it in any detail. I want to know enough to understand the financial statements--I am perfectly happy to leave the details to someone else. I hire someone to do the bookkeeping who will make sure we have the records we need and know where the money comes from, where it's going and what's our current status. It keeps me sane. I use that information to make decisions, but I don't want the time suck of trying to keep up on this myself.

But therein is our dilemma. Not only do people need to stay current in their knowledge, but the organization needs to find a way to use, keep and expand upon that knowledge. People quit for other jobs. Others retire. They take a lot of knowledge with them.

How do we retain knowledge in our organization? How do we spread that knowledge around the organization, so we learn faster and aren't floundering when something happens? I talked about some of the mechanical ways in my last post, Let's Talk Systems. But there are other, more interactive ways to learn and share knowledge quickly.

I'll use myself as an example. I decided to write a book. It comes out in just a few days. (Dancing!) I have been meaning to write the book for a couple of years, but trying to learn all of the steps in getting published on my own just frustrated the heck out of me. I talked to the couple of people who I knew had written a book, but I just couldn't get the steps down in my mind. Finally, I signed up for a class and joined an on-line Facebook group. The class led me step-by-step (mostly) through a process and the on-line group provided a way to get my questions answered and provided encouragement along the way. Voila! Slightly more than 60 days later, I'm a published author.

Other than bragging on my accomplishment, what's the point? My point is organizations only stay on top by constantly learning--which means the people learn. But since people can come and go, we need to be sure to capture their knowledge in some way and share it with others to ensure the entire organization can capitalize on that knowledge. This again points to the need for planning and using a systematic process. At the same time, people engage more with the learning and can learn faster when they interact with others more knowledgeable and those also learning. Shared questions, experiences, and knowledge help to reinforce concepts and enable the learner to apply the knowledge more quickly.  In addition to faster and arguably, better, learning, this type of learning helps keep your experts engaged and helps everyone feel more a part of the team. A real win-win in terms of retention.

I suggest you try to find ways to incorporate social media tools into the learning plans in your organization.

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