How to beat corporate brain drain


When you lose a star employee, you also lose the great stuff they carry around in their heads. It doesn’t have to be like this

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It can take years for companies to build knowledge bases. Yet, once constructed, they help capture learning in a way that provides insight into organizational competencies. Knowledge bases create a competitive advantage. But with 70% of learning taking place informally, capturing and sharing information that adds to an organization’s capabilities is becoming more difficult. The biggest challenge with informal learning is that companies often lack a central place to collaborate and share knowledge in a way the information can be retained.

Corporations spend a lot of time investing in competency mapping, aligning training content with company objectives, and in platforms and content designed to build learning organizations. With these investments, more often than not, we end up with closed platforms to facilitate learning. Although these systems track participation and course completion, they are mainly designed to distribute content rather than foster conversation.

The alternative to closed platforms and employees learning informally, is adopting a single collaborative platform that provides some structure to informal learning, but also gives employees the freedom to learn together with peers. The best part about having one central platform? Knowledge is captured long-term, regardless of whether employees leave. More of that later.

Swamped by tools

In an effort to improve collaboration within organizations and cut down on the number of emails sent, tools like HipChat, Slack and Google Drive have emerged. These tools open up an entirely new challenge when it comes to tracking knowledge. For example, I use several collaborative tools every day. Though the number of internal emails I receive has declined, the challenge now is finding buried information among various Slack channels and Google Docs. When it comes to collaborating with a colleague, not only do I have to track down the information, I have to grant access and, ironically, send an email notification to the intended recipient.

Collaborative tools like those mentioned above may help streamline communication among teams, but when it comes time to revisit the information, we often prefer to duplicate our original effort rather than waste valuable time searching through threads and documents. Wouldn’t it make more sense to use one, searchable platform to collaborate, discuss trends, and share ideas and concepts?

Goodbye stars, hello knowledge

There are a lot of resources out there that talk about retaining talent and motivating loyalty. But, let’s face it, it’s often our best and brightest employees who are presented with new opportunities. When they leave our organizations, we notice the impact of that missing person’s contribution to our organizational knowledge. Regardless of how we handle a transition, the moment the direct source of specific information leaves the company, their knowledge leaves too.

By adopting a collaborative learning programme from the beginning, employers do not have to worry as much about retaining each employee’s knowledge base. As long as the employee participates in the learning experience within the platform – which most of our stars do – their knowledge is tracked. No matter how much time passes, anyone within the organization can easily search past comments, information that has been shared, detailed notes, interpretations of concepts and the like. Ultimately, businesses retain knowledge and perspectives from every employee.

At BlueBottleBiz, we understand the effects of unstructured informal learning, as well as the reality of turnover. It’s for these reasons that we place so much emphasis on our collaboration and tracking capabilities. The process of sharing information, learning from one another, and capturing knowledge in a searchable, user-friendly platform ensures organizational knowledge and expertise continues to add value.

As you finalize your plans for 2017, consider how your organization captures and retains knowledge. Are you ahead of the game when it comes to defeating organizational brain drain? If not, maybe it’s time to update your systems so you can centralize collaboration and make interactions discoverable now and into the future.
— Mike Conner is chief evangelist at BlueBottleBiz