I just jumped off a call with another company who is experiencing the best of problems. The founding team built up their organization from humble beginnings to the point where they have grown to about 200 employees (props to ya)! Over a period of 20+ years, they learned a lot critical knowledge that drove their culture, philosophy, and most importantly their intellectual property. This tribal knowledge was there a key differentiator… AND the secret sauce to their success.
Now, the company is humming along, experiencing 30% growth, but they are facing a new kind of challenge. The leaders and experts within their organization are approaching retirement age.
This Silver Tsunami is creating a need to get a new generation up to speed, without missing a beat.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it. The truth is… how they handle this essential generational transfer of knowledge will make or break their company over the next 3 to 5 years.
Get it wrong and backlogs, quality, re-work, customer retention, and net promoter score will all feel the strain of losing those key people. The risk for this company is that the valuable customers that they’ve spent years developing relationships and building trust with, will feel alienated and burned. Ultimately, the profits will diminish along with brand equity as the company loses some of its secret sauce which helped them grow.
Get it right, and those key employees will look back and know they made a difference for the company which will be felt for decades to come. Profits will increase, the secret sauce will be preserved, new and existing employees will be engaged and the new generation fo workers will have the tools for success.
For companies like this, their process is their product.
How you go about your business, is your business. In order to sleep well at night, you have to know that every employee within the company has access to the information they need to do their jobs right, the first time. When you get it right, you’re on-boarding will be more successful, your employees will feel empowered, and you’ll retain your best people.
A couple of years ago we did a project with a financial institution that relied on “undocumented tribal knowledge” that was communicated through on-the-job training. Their best people were constantly being slowed down because new hires had to reach out and ask questions. We learned a few secrets to creating a knowledge management system they could trust. Here are a few highlights.
- First, your people have to trust the information. There can’t be five documents that describe the same process… You have to have one document that people trust, vetted by your experts.
- You have to tear down the barriers in finding out the “right way” to do something. One company switched from a VPN Sharepoint installation to HowFactory and was able to reduce the average time required to find a document from nearly 12 minutes to less than one minute. That saved them over 120 hours per week in lost productivity!
- In United States last year, industrial companies spent over $270B on continuous improvement. The moment you publish a “best practice” document, it’s outdated. So you have to have a way of cultivating improvements, and a distribution method that you trust. (Hint, that doesn’t mean a low-paid intern running around filling binders that no one opens :-))
- You need data to make decisions. On average, industrial manufacturing companies experience a process related incident that generates at least $1000 of re-work every week. You have to know where these incidents are occurring, so you can proactively train people on the most up-to-date systems to avoid these problems before they happen.
Here’s the full case study that describes how this company was able to realize a $3K ROI per training cycle.
Look, I get it… You’re old school. But remember, the folks that are going to run your company in the future, are new school. They have different values, and most importantly different expectations for how they learn. After all, they grew up with Google.
They don’t want to be told, they want to discover. And that’s a good thing, because that means they are inherently pro-active. Let’s give them what they need so that they can do the job that you’ve hired them to do.
If you want more information on the way to build a truly transformational knowledge management system that encompasses the entire journey of your employees from new hires to the crusty old veteran, while preparing for the silver tsunami, download our free white paper or set up an appointment with one of our certified process consultants today.