Stop Losing Your Company’s Tribal Knowledge

“I spent all my time hiring her when we first started and now she’s leaving?!? I can’t believe that!”

Jody was understandably upset. We had hired Janna when we first started a few years ago and now she is leaving. She’s also taking all her knowledge about our products with her. I couldn’t believe it. I was disappointed in myself that we didn’t spend more time writing good documentation and capturing what she knew. We’ll need that knowledge when we hire the next person, but it will take a long time to get it. Longer than the two week notice she just gave. Janna was already a bottleneck for the team, and when she went on vacation other team members couldn’t seem to get things done as quickly. If only we would have installed one of those knowledge sharing systems, or…<insert your regrets here>.

Sound familiar? It should. With the current hiring crisis for technical workers, it’s hard when employees leave and it hurts even more when their knowledge of our products go with them. We lose time teaching others what they knew, and spend precious time re-learning things when we should be innovating. We move so fast in today’s business world that we sacrifice writing things down in favor of going faster, but when we don’t take the time to capture our knowledge, we suffer the consequences.

The good news is that we can prevent this scenario from happening!

Aye, that’s the rub.

To prevent this we have to slow down to go faster. I know, that sounds very cliche, but it’s true. Every time you spend the extra few minutes (or hour) to write something down it can be re-used many times over. Your pool of information and know-how grows, and before you know it you’ve got a real repository of knowledge to draw from! The problem is that if you ask any technical person about documentation they’ll say that that it’s always out-of-date and nobody likes writing it. They’re right! So, the challenge is how do we get the team to want to write things down and share it with others?

What a Modern Knowledge Sharing Solution looks like

You must have a system for getting information out of people’s heads in a way that’s easy to use. Q&A systems like AnswerHub were created for this! When you have a question, instead of putting it in an email, simply put it into the software and the team is notified and they can answer using the software. Anyone want fewer emails? I know I do! Not only does it save e-mail space, but the information in the answer is available for everyone to see and comment on. We can add to the answer over time so it never gets stale. And when Jenna leaves, we’re not left wringing our hands that she’s taking all our tribal knowledge with her.

Search is critical.

Next, you have to be able to find what you’re looking for! Before you ask that question in the first place, do a quick search to see if someone else has asked it before. Bonus points if you can auto-complete on the fly as I’m searching to save me some extra time. In addition to a quick search, advanced filters and searching by topics (tags) need to be there. I know most companies check the box and say that search is included. The problem is that I (like you) compare every search we encounter to Google – so it’s gotta be a GREAT. 

Articles and How-Tos

You have to be able to create articles, how-tos, guides, and tutorials for all your “expository” information. Team members need to be able to follow the directions in the tutorial and build the product…first try! When Janna is on vacation the team should be able to reference her notes on the microservices implementation to get past a hairy architecture issue. In short, by providing a place where our team can catalog our information, we make it easy to cover for each other when we’re away. That means less emails, texts, and calls when we’re at Disney with the kiddos. Everyone wins.

In a Nutshell

In a nutshell, a good knowledge sharing system should include:

  • Q&A system so it’s easy to ask questions and get answers across the entire team.
  • Great search capabilities so we can find information in the system without needing to ask a question at all.
  • The ability to create articles, how-tos, and guides to share what we know – everything from code patterns and internal processes to why I always win ring-toss at the company’s summer barbecue.
  • A great user interface that looks like it’s part of my company.

A Different Ending

“I’m excited for Janna’s new opportunity! She was such a help getting our company off the ground, and I’m glad that she’s growing and taking such a big role at ACME Corp.  Jarred starts next week and he’ll have everything he needs to get up to speed quickly in the team’s new AnswerHub site. We should still be able ship the release this month too which will be great for our customers!”

Your company’s most important knowledge lives in the place where it can be utilized most quickly: people’s heads. We lose critical information when our employees leave for a better opportunity. Instead of being able to celebrate with them, we worry that we won’t recover and feel guilty for the thoughts we have about their departure.

What if everyone knew as much as your smartest, most experienced teammate? If you want to flip the script for your team, get AnswerHub and supercharge your team’s collaboration and innovation engine. Stop losing your company’s tribal knowledge and start capturing it and putting it to work. All you have to do is click here to get started, the rest is easy!

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