Travel to the mountains of California or Nevada, and according to the ‘Encyclopedia Britannica,’ you will find one of the many grand marvels of the world, a Bristlecone Pine Tree.
Imagine for a moment witnessing something ‘Britannica’ claims has survived nearly 4,000 years worth of change.
Look even deeper to the roots, and one can find the notes and blueprint for the survival of this tree.
Much like trees, the history of sustainability for many facilities and even institutions lies in their roots and the measures taken to preserve them. A common thread across the board in many fields is the mass retirement of a generation of baby boomers. According to a PEW Research study referenced in an article written by Peter Schroeder of Northpass, over 10.000 workers per day will reach retirement age.
This compounded with a new generation of workers yielding higher turnover rates than in the past creates a perfect storm for the loss of vital knowledge.
The winds of change bring the opportunity for new knowledge and reinvention, but if the appropriate measures are not taken, businesses and their facilities fall victim to the loss of institutional knowledge.
This information is vital to not only the history but the future evolution of that particular business or field. Institutional knowledge, according to a presentation by Lillian Gassie, is anything related to a business or facility that contributes to its function or success.
Gassie notes that this could include, systems, processes, skills, assets, and even relationships.
In many ways, the loss of this knowledge is like a tree without roots to stabilize, strengthen, and feed future growth that could potentially yield fruit or in the business world, profit.
Sustaining and Maintaining Institutional Knowledge Roots
Establish Positive, Productive Office Environments
Writer Peter Schroeder of Northpass suggests in an article that, through establishing positive, productive relationships with various contributors to the management of a facility or institution, one can better understand those who inhabit the space as well as how it is utilized and cared for by those individuals.
It is vital to get to the bottom of who takes care of what aspects of the business or facility and how those particular tasks are executed.
Experts at I.T. Toolkit emphasize that it takes time, effort, and vulnerability to compile “honest, accurate, and inclusive” knowledge of a facility or business.
The same publication also states that creating a positive, productive work environments will motivate others to share what they know.
Interestingly in an interview for HR Daily conducted by James Davis, the experts claim it is also vital to have a clear understanding of what skills, including soft skills, are required in order to complete the task.
Institutional knowledge applies to not only the individuals themselves but also to many of the assets of the company. This can include an in-depth knowledge of the work team and also the building/grounds.
Frequently Record and Assess Systems
(When in Doubt Document it)
The well known educational philosopher and researcher Jean Piaget once stated in an interview, “The goal of education is not to increase the amount of knowledge but to create the possibilities for a child to invent and discover, to create men who are capable of doing new things.”
Again the Davis interview and Gassie presentation also declare that managers must understand that there is both implied and clear forms of knowledge needed to run a business or for the care of a facility in order for progress to be made and for future innovation to happen.
Experts from I.T. ToolKit suggest the importance of establishing that institutional knowledge and the recording of this information is a “standard for the company.”
Through the creation of master databases of assets, employees, tasks, deadlines, checklists, job/project descriptions, service dates, etc., managers can create a blueprint for the care of a business, project, or facility that will thrive beyond turnover or change.
eFacility is software that allows facility managers to create this master database, and allow their technicians to access the necessary information as they work on a work order. eFacility helps facility managers to capture institutional knowledge, and allow new technicians to access that wealth of information.
This roadmap of systems and facilities can provide insight for assessment, reflections, and future planning.
Writers for Northpass suggest creative measures such as utilizing video content which could include testimonials and screen captures.
The regular assessment and reflection of these items is crucial to making timely, intelligent decisions and can even contribute to cost-saving due to a resulting increased level of efficiency and support.
Understand it Can Happen to Any Facility or Business
Coming to terms with the knowledge that and facility or business or even household can become overburdened and/or encounter roadblocks after the loss of institutional knowledge will allow for preventative measures to be taken.
In an interview conducted by James Davis of HR Daily with an industry expert, as much as 200 hours can be lost to inefficiency when a new hire is made and consequently there is a loss of knowledge.
This ultimately reinforces the need for measures of seamlessly handling and informing turnover.
eFacility allows new hires to access to the institutional knowledge within the digital facility, and complete work orders like they’ve been on the team for decades.
Embrace the Digital Age
Instead of sifting through piles of files and paperwork, there are systems out there that can do all of this work for you. Managers can store all of this information and data using tools created to do just that writers for Northpass and I.T. Toolkit suggest turning to digital mentoring and online library tools to accomplish this.
These tools and many others allow for the appropriate backup of information as well as for the seamless navigation and searching of all of the materials.
It also allows for more efficient, real-time feedback and knowledge of the inner workings of a business or facility. By regularly maintaining institutional knowledge using these systems, one can ensure that nothing is lost in the midst of transition.
In a quotation recorded on The Great Thought Treasury website, the philosopher John Locke once stated, “The improvement of understanding is for two ends: first, our own increase of knowledge; secondly, to enable us to deliver that knowledge to others.”
Though in his case, he was trying to persuade young individuals to read, the message of recording and interpreting information is essential to the gaining of new knowledge down the road is still clear. Through creating systems for recording institutional knowledge managers can ultimately build strong, foundational roots, for a healthy, long-living business similar to a sturdy evergreen.
eFacility provides software for facility managers that need to capture and share institutional knowledge. eFacility’s patented technology allows technicians to access the documentation necessary to complete a work order from a mobile device. Geo-based documentation delivery ensures the technician can quickly access the important documentation for only the area of the facility in which they’re standing.
Britannica, T. E. (2017, May 23). Bristlecone pine. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/plant/bristlecone-pine
Davis, J. (2018, July 17). Knowledge Loss: Turnover Means Losing More Than Employees. Retrieved from https://hrdailyadvisor.blr.com/2018/07/18/knowledge-loss-turnover-means-losing-employees/
Gassie, Lillian. (2017, August 18). Managing Institutional Knowledge. Presentation. Poland
How to Capture and Preserve Institutional Knowledge. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ittoolkit.com/articles/capture-institutional-knowledge
Schroeder, P. (n.d.). 4 Ways to Avoid Institutional Memory Loss When Key Employees Leave. Retrieved from https://www.northpass.com/blog/4-ways-to-avoid-institutional-memory-loss-when-key-employees-leave
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Photo by Razlan Hanafiah on Unsplash