Gil Becker is CEO & President of AnyClip, the AI-powered online video platform. Tweet at him @Becker_Gil
As I write this, the odds are that some percentage of your employees are eyeing their next moves. Maybe they’re idly browsing LinkedIn; maybe they’re actively meeting with recruiters. Turnover, sadly, is a fact of corporate life. But while when an employee leaves is largely out of your control, there is something you can have a say in—namely, how much your company loses when they walk out the door.
Think, for a moment, of the dense store of institutional knowledge that lives in each employee’s head. Every decision made in the course of doing business was made for a reason and only the person (or persons) who made it can tell you what that reason was. And that’s the least of what’s lost when an important team member jumps ship. For example, they might know a given department’s best practices, like the tricks to keeping a complex server farm uptime at the max with minimal cost. Or the tiny details of software architecture, where an innocent-seeming change could create business chaos. Or the overall market/competitor knowledge that accrues naturally when you’ve spent years in a given position.
All of this is to say that when a long-term team member leaves, you’re not just losing them—you’re losing all the knowledge and company intellectual property they’ve accumulated in the time they’ve spent with your company. Preserving that knowledge before it’s gone should be a major priority for any business—especially in the remote work era, when institutional knowledge can be so much more difficult to rebuild. And I have some ideas about how you can go about doing it.
Step 1: Make knowledge-sharing a priority before employees leave.
Once someone’s decided to leave, their last weeks in the office are rarely their most productive—we all know this. That’s why it’s so essential to capture employee knowledge and make it accessible to their colleagues long before a given employee even thinks about leaving. Not only does this reduce the need for frantic offboarding, but it also allows everyone to benefit from employees’ knowledge all the time. Internal wikis can be intensely helpful here—think stubs on this or that client, project, platform, etc.
Another helpful tool in this arena is video. Marketers already know that people prefer video to text—72% of consumers prefer to learn about products or services via video. This applies to everything, including internal work communications. According to one study, 58% of workers “would rather watch an explanatory on-demand video than ask a colleague for help.” That’s why making video an office habit—encouraging employees to record instructional clips once a month or even once a week—can pay massive dividends down the line.
The point here is to incentivize internal knowledge production and preservation—to make it a real part of the job. To that end, you can reward people for creating resources that other colleagues make regular use of. You can also start identifying and praising star performers and ask them to do recorded seminars or primers on internal policies, platforms, etc.
Step 2: Take advantage of the knowledge you’re already creating.
As important as employee-produced videos and wikis are, they’re just one part of the equation. The fact is that your employees are generating info-rich content all the time without even realizing it. Take video calls, for instance: In the work-from-home era, these are largely where business is hashed out.
The problem is that these are happening on private computers and—if they’re recorded—winding up in personal clouds or drives. Feeding these meetings into a centralized internal portal—one that anyone at the company can access—keeps knowledge accessible, even when the person who generated it is no longer with the company. Given the challenges inherent to building long-term institutional knowledge in the remote era, this is no small thing.
Step 3: Make sure the info people need is actually discoverable.
Of course, once you’ve begun preserving all this information, you’ll quickly find yourself with a tremendous amount of content. Which brings me to my next point: Information is only useful when it’s organized and accessible. The average employee spends 2.5 hours a day looking for the information they need to do their job—time that could be spent more productively, if only organizations made it easier for them to find what they needed.
To that end, you cannot overstate the benefits of AI, which is rapidly changing the face of knowledge preservation. In the text arena, for instance, AI solutions are allowing corporations to upload, organize and search massive archives of otherwise hard-to-access documents. Banks or insurance companies can easily use AI to digitize physical files, making it much easier for employees to find the information they need.
With video, the same logic applies. Thousands of scattered videos are of no particular use to anyone. A centralized, easy-to-search video repository, on the other hand, can make a real difference in your employees’ workday. AI can automatically tag everything in a given video—including both what was said and who said it. Accordingly, actually tracking down what you need to know becomes as simple as typing a search query. Knowledge circulates freely, and things get done faster.
Step 4: Begin the formal offboarding process.
Once you have your system in place, the actual process of offboarding becomes much less stressful. After all, your departing employee’s knowledge is already preserved in easily searchable text documents and videos. The task now is to try and secure those last missing bits of information before your employee walks out the door (or permanently logs out of the company Slack).
I’d recommend scheduling a formal offboarding session, where relevant staff can ask questions. I’d also recommend recording it, even if it happens offline, and adding it to your company’s video management system.
It’s always sad to see a colleague go, but knowing they won’t be taking all their knowledge with them makes it just a bit more tolerable. A proactive stance toward knowledge preservation can greatly smooth the offboarding process—and make things that much easier for whoever comes in next.