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Productivity

4 ways to preserve knowledge in your business

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

A team of business and technology journalists and editors who write to help Australia’s community of small and medium businesses access the technology and know-how that helps solve problems and create opportunities.

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

A team of business and technology journalists and editors who write to help Australia’s community of small and medium businesses access the technology and know-how that helps solve problems and create opportunities.

According to the Australia Towards 2031 report from McCrindle Research, only 43% of Australians think their workplace is preparing for knowledge transfer between departing and remaining staff. The Great Resignation continues, and many Baby Boomers will leave the workforce permanently in the next decade. These useful tips can help you share and preserve knowledge in your business.

Two women smiling and chatting with a laptop in break-out area.

Knowledge is one of the most valuable assets your business has. But when people leave their jobs, they can take this knowledge – whether it’s of processes, relationships, or long-term goals and strategies – with them. Building a culture of valuing and sharing knowledge is a great way to ensure that you’re capturing and storing this knowledge organically before your people leave, and there are plenty of business process improvements you can implement to make it happen. Here, we detail four helpful ways you can start preserving knowledge in your business.

1. Define the types of knowledge you’re preserving

The first thing to consider is the two main types of knowledge: explicit and tacit.

Explicit knowledge is knowledge that is easy to articulate, write down and share. This could be documented in files like word-processing documents, presentations and spreadsheets of data.

Tacit knowledge is knowledge that you don’t learn in a book or from school – it’s gained from personal experience and context. Tacit knowledge, like the nuances of negotiating with a difficult client, is more difficult to communicate.

It’s useful to understand the difference between these two types of knowledge so that you can apply the right techniques and tools to preserve them.

2. Set up effective cloud-based file-sharing and storage habits

Using digital tools like file-sharing apps and communication platforms is a great way to begin preserving knowledge. They can help you share explicit knowledge, but they can also help you document tacit knowledge – like recording someone talking about how they solved a difficult problem.

Tools you could consider include:

  • Messaging platforms like Slack, which have company-wide or team-based channels that allow you to look up previous conversations (even after staff have left).
  • Cloud-based file-sharing systems like Microsoft OneDrive that allow staff to save their own documents online and collaborate with others from anywhere. These tools can typically be set up to allow access to these files once the staff member has left the company.
  • Online resource platforms like Confluence that can be edited by multiple users.
  • Video-conferencing software like Microsoft Teams and Zoom, which allow users to video call and chat as well as record calls that can then be transcribed for record keeping.

It helps if your tools are integrated. For example, a system like Office 365 will allow multiple digital tools, like Outlook, Teams, Word and OneDrive, to work together. It’s also important to train staff about how to use these tools and empower them with the knowledge about how these tools will help their work.

If you’re ready to take your knowledge-sharing tools and habits to the next level, the Telstra Unified Communications range is a great place to start. You can consider how to set up collaboration in a way that works for you, such as linking Office 365 with your voice, video or data services.

3. Make sharing knowledge a routine

Creating a culture that encourages your team to share information, lessons and processes with each other is a great way to foster a positive environment. It helps develop trust and respect between staff members and encourages them to learn and grow. When you make knowledge sharing a routine, it becomes second nature to staff and enables continuous knowledge transfer.

Here are some ways you can make knowledge sharing a regular part of your business’s processes:

  • Exit interviews. Ask departing staff the right questions to document their job-specific knowledge.
  • Project debriefs. Make sure you always do a debrief when you finish a big project. Document your learnings and save it in a place that staff can access.
  • Storytelling. Give experienced staff members the opportunity to share stories about how they get their work done. This could be a regularly scheduled learning and social activity.
  • Knowledge maps. Create a visual representation of where your business’s knowledge resources are.
  • Regular hackathons. Get staff of all levels together to solve a problem as a team, each bringing their own knowledge and experience.

You could even consider rewarding employees who actively participate in your business’s knowledge-sharing activities. You could integrate it into their annual review, or you could award them bonuses for actively sharing knowledge with their peers.

4. Break down barriers between generations

According to McCrindle, only half of Australian workers (49%) believe their workplace is effective at creating opportunities for older staff to impart their wisdom and learnings to younger staff.

Age bias can hurt both early- and late-career workers. It’s important to encourage a company culture that respects the individual skills of different generations and encourages learning both ways.

Here are a few ways you can help to promote knowledge sharing between generations:

  • Mentoring programs. Encourage more experienced members to mentor younger staff.
  • Internal training. Have senior staff teach a course on an area of their expertise.
  • Shadowing. Give younger staff the opportunity to absorb knowledge by inviting them to meetings and events where they can observe senior leaders in action.
  • Onboarding. Involve senior members of staff in planning how new staff are trained.
  • Intergenerational project teams. Rather than having teams of less-experienced staff working together on less business-critical work and senior staff silo-ed on the ‘important’ tasks, pair up senior and junior staff to work together.
  • Podcasts and videos. Task younger employees with launching and producing recorded content – for internal use – where senior members of staff can be interviewed to shed light on their tacit knowledge.

Fostering a culture of knowledge sharing and mentorship can inspire staff and improve productivity. This is an important advantage in times when staff churn is high.

If you’re still looking for inspiration, read up on the signs your business is ready for an intranet or use our article How to upskill on a budget: Our guide to the best online courses to help you find a course on knowledge management.

With set processes in place, you can do your best to prevent knowledge from leaving your company – and continue to build your knowledge bank into the future.

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