Every company has people, processes, and organizational knowledge that can turn into amnesia when people leave. As baby boomers continue the mass exodus out of companies, it becomes even more critical. This video discusses how a formal mentoring program assists in making sure vital business intelligence stays in-house.
- One of the biggest challenges facing businesses in the 21st century is the loss of business intelligence. I'm not talking about the intellectual or proprietary property you store electronically. I'm talking about the business smarts that live inside the brains of all your employees, especially those that have spent years, or maybe even decades mastering their craft in your business. When employees leave, unless you've adequately transferred that knowledge out of their brains to be shared with others, it's as if you've suffered amnesia.
This isn't a rare or small threat. I worked with a client once that was facing a situation where 50% of its employees were retirement-eligible within five years. While not everyone would opt to do that, the potential impact of that was frightening. The best way to guard against organizational amnesia is creating a formal mentoring program. When I say formal, that doesn't mean cumbersome. It means there is a plan in place to transfer knowledge, that this plan will have both qualitative and quantitative metrics to gauge success, and that there is something in writing to capture the information.
Step one is organizing mentors and the transfer of knowledge. Now depending on the number of employees in your business, this will look different. For very small businesses, designate mentor, mentee pairs. If your organization is over 100, you'll want to create a team of mentors. Good candidates for mentor teams have a lot of experience, represent a diverse collection of knowledge bases, and have communication skills.
Meetings between mentors and mentees need to happen on a regularly scheduled basis. The goal is to create redundancy in organizational knowledge. This can't happen just once. Knowledge evolves, technology advances, and you might not always realize what is valuable information to pass on in the first few meetings. Mentors should not have direct supervision over mentees. Mentees will be most willing to discuss harder issues, including potentially issues with supervisors, with someone that doesn't control their destiny in the company.
Here is the key part that not many people think of. The mentors need training. Not everyone is wired to be a teacher. There are plenty of ways to train mentors, and it should be a rewarding experience for them as well. Step two is setting metrics. This way you can track your mentoring backup process. Use both qualitative and quantitative metrics.
Qualitative metrics might include overall employee morale, communication between mentors and mentees and the nature of questions being asked at higher management levels. Quantitative metrics could include sales production, employee retention and less absenteeism. Step three is documentation. All of this transfer of knowledge is great, but if it's not captured in writing, it's wasted effort.
Institute a way for mentors and mentees to capture this knowledge in lasting records. The documentation method you choose needs to be updatable and backed up on cloud-based software. To summarize, set up mentor mentee relationships, and formalize the knowledge transfer process. Monitor this process with metrics. And then finally, document everything. Not only can this process safeguard your business intelligence, but it can also improve the quality of your employees and the communication of your teams.
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