Sometimes it can appear that organisations don’t really care about loss of knowledge. They don’t invest in knowledge sharing or exit interviews that work. The expense of headcount is calculated in a simplistic way and loss of knowledge isn’t taken into account when a reduction of headcount is under consideration.
How can you persuade your organisation to take a more nuanced approach and invest in knowledge sharing and a proper process for leavers?
The simplest way is to ask “How does this knowledge loss affect our bottom line?”
photo: Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
How can you help your organisation to understand this knowledge loss and invest in on-going knowledge sharing and improved exit interviews?
If you want to demonstrate the value of knowledge sharing and avoiding knowledge loss, as well as having processes in place to mitigate the loss of knowledge when people need or want to leave, you will need to estimate the intangible cost of knowledge loss.
It’s difficult to calculate these losses and they are rarely shown in any budgets, but you could estimate the cost of the loss to your organisation by considering the following:
- What is the cost of making someone redundant?
- What is the cost of hiring a new person?
- What is the cost of being unable to find the right person and hiring a “poor fit”?
- What is the value of a key client relationship? What if the next person doesn’t fit as well with the client?
- What is the cost of a project delay?
- What is the cost of a poor decision or mistake due to inexperience?
- What are the costs of rework or inefficiencies in work?
- What is the cost of loss of proprietary siloed knowledge?
- What is the cost of training a new person to “adequate” stage and then to “expert” stage?
- How do new team members slow existing team members down? What variety of work and clients could be affected?
- What delays and inefficiencies are due to existing staff taking fright from lay-offs and searching for work elsewhere, or feeling there’s no point starting something new until things have “settled down”?
- What is the cost of new “personality clashes”?
If you are concerned about the loss of complex knowledge from your organisation, take action and book on to my workshop on “Deep Knowledge” and get your on-going knowledge sharing sorted out. More info and book here.
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The exit interview …
When someone is retiring after a long and illustrious career, they will probably be delighted to share the golden nuggets of knowledge they have amassed over the years as part of their legacy.
However, when someone is moving on to a competitor or being made redundant, how can knowledge managers handle the knowledge exit interview?
With these limitations in mind, how can you make sure your exit interviews (especially with the non-retirees) are as effective as possible?
- “We know more than we can say and we can say more than we can write down.” A meeting, preferably face-to-face, will elicit more than asking your leaver to write down their knowledge for a database.
- Prepare. You are unlikely to have a long meeting, so spend some time beforehand thinking about what is the most important knowledge and how you will begin a conversation about it. Questions such as “What did you wish someone had told you from the start?” or “What was the most useful thing you learned?” can be good starting questions. You might want to start building up a few templates of questions for leavers depending on their speciality. Look at the data: do you have a bulge of retirees in the pipeline? If so, start preparing your frameworks in spare moments, then this won’t derail your other work when it hits.
- Dig deeper. The initial questions often get you vague, slightly cryptic or superficial answers, which need follow-up. How cryptic/helpful the follow-on answers are will probably depend on how cordial the departure process is. Useful follow-up questions are simply “Why?” and “Give me an example when that worked well.“
- Draw on the wisdom of the crowd. A panel interview, fishbowl discussion or series of group conversations can help to spread the knowledge and bring a variety of experiences to the discussion, to elicit more complex situational knowledge in a more efficient way. You’ll need to be sensitive, however: many people, including those being made redundant through no fault of their own, prefer to handle leaving privately and won’t appreciate a group discussion.
- Be imaginative and flexible. Ask the leaver how they would like to engage and share. Those who are leaving due to retirement may enjoy leaving “a legacy” which could take the form of a filmed interview, a book or a presentation. Alternatively, you may find with those facing redundancy, that you can find a win-win method of knowledge sharing.
- You could help them with their CV and so have lots of discussions about their successes and what made these successful compared to other situations.
- You could help them prepare a portfolio of success stories to take with them to help to obtain their next role.
- They could prepare a presentation to the rest of the team about their knowledge, as a means to improve their public speaking skills and as preparation for interviews.
Lastly, don’t forget the importance of having on-going systems of knowledge sharing and efforts to improve trusting networks in order to faciliate knowledge sharing throughout people’s careers. On-going knowledge sharing is easier and more effective than a big blast of knowledge elicitation at the end of someone’s tenure at your organisation.
How do you handle exit interviews? Do you have any top tips to share? I’d love to hear more in the comments below.
If you are interested in uncovering and sharing your firm’s Deep Knowledge, come along to my workshop in London on Wednesday 11th July 2018 at 2-5pm. More info and book here.
And if you’ve enjoyed this post, you can follow the blog using the button at the top right or sign up for the busy person’s summary (roughly monthly).
“Emerging Approaches to Law Firm Profitability”
You’ll find my contribution at Chapter 3: “Better, faster, cheaper”.
- – What is process design and improvement?
- – Where to start with your first process-related project.
- – Improvement cycles.
You can find out more and buy a copy here.
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
If you are interested in conversation, come along to my workshop in London or my seminar in Birmingham.
We had an excellent session a while ago from Claire Perry of Emplaw Online and Rachel Mulligan from The Compliance School on GDPR for beginners and KMers and I’m slightly embarrassed that I’ve only just got around to pressing publish on this short summary which I wrote at the time. Perhaps I should blame GDPR pressures 🙂
I don’t know about you, but having previously made it half way through a very poor law firm webinar and been terrified by various comments by experts on LinkedIn, I felt a bit like this.
Photo by Gabriel Matula on Unsplash
After an outline of the different legislation from Claire so that we had a picture in our heads of where everything fits together, Rachel took us through a quiz to highlight common issues and questions. Although I didn’t get many questions right, I was pleased to find out that the answer was usually less negative than I assumed it was.
Rachel took us through:
- Where the legislation applies
- Who it applies to
- What personal data is (the slightly unexpected inclusion being people’s work email addresses where they include their name – one for subscriptions/database people to take into account)
- Likely penalties and the ICO’s professed attitude to penalties
- How privacy policies will have to change
She also pointed us to a few useful resources on GDPR:
If you were at the event you should already have received copies of the slides. If you haven’t got them yet, email me or comment below. If you weren’t at the event and would like the slides, perhaps get in touch with Claire or Rachel and ask them direct (although slides never make as much sense if you weren’t there to hear the speaker too).
If you need any more info about GDPR, Claire Perry and Rachel Mulligan are the right people.
Click the links for more information about Emplaw and Knowledge Network UK.