Minding the Company Lore; Firms Find That Moving Forward is Easier When Employees Know Where the Company Has Been

Companies are finding that it is becoming more and more important to capture the knowledge base of their key employees before they leave. Among the examples discussed is the mad search at Microsoft Corp. for their retired facilities manager when vital blueprint information couldn’t be found. To quote Bill Gates, “Here we were, the largest developer of office space in the Seattle area … and our entire knowledge base of crucial information was being carried round in the heads of just a few people.”

The article warns that as baby boomers retire in great numbers in the years ahead, a critical mass of knowledge may be lost. It is vital, the author argues, to create a system for capturing this employee knowledge.

One of the most effective ways to do this is in story form, and companies are urged to create a story archive, with retirees interviewed before they leave the company. The article advises companies to go beyond checklist-type responses to problems to capture the thought processes that went into policies and approaches. Among the suggestions offered:

  • Videotaping key employees daily to get a sense of how they think;
  • Mixing employees of different ages on projects or teams so they can learn from each other;
  • Establishing a mentoring program; and
  • Creating “best practices” models where a company identifies high-achieving employees and has them share their techniques with peers.

The article provides action steps to take to develop a “lore-keeper,” establish a repository of knowledge and create a system for spreading knowledge throughout the company.

Source: Steven Savides, Christian Science Monitor; Boston, Mass; November 12, 2002

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