concentrated black man reading book in library

Industrial companies are facing a pressing problem: the loss of knowledge and information as employees leave the company.

In GlobalSpec’s forthcoming “2021 Pulse of Engineering” survey, 58 percent of engineers said that knowledge and/or information loss as employees left the company is very or extremely important. Another 26 percent said it was moderately important.

The issue is exacerbated due to older engineers retiring, layoffs during the coronavirus pandemic, and organic turnover. Twenty-six percent of engineers said they were only moderately likely to be employed at the same company five years from now. Thirty percent said they were only slightly likely or not at all likely to be employed by the same company.  

That’s significant employee loss—often accompanied by specialized knowledge walking out the door.

Formal practices are required

Only 39 percent of companies have formal practices in place to identify senior-level and specialized experts to train, transfer, mentor, or retain their knowledge among others in the organization.

That leaves a significant gap in some companies. Marketers can be a valuable contributor in helping their customers preserve institutional knowledge.

Here’s how:

  • Create educational and technical content that is focused on the needs and interests of engineers. White papers, webinars, articles, and other technical content can explain processes, describe how to complete a task, compare different approaches to solving a problem, and document best practices. This type of content—educational and customer-focused rather than promotional and sales-focused—can become a part of a client organization’s knowledge library.

  • Engineers report that their most effective ways to systematically or formally maintain, educate, and advance their professional skills are online training courses, webinars, and peers. You can host online training sessions for engineers covering topics they need to know and that you specialize in. Be sure to archive any training sessions so engineers can always have access to the content.

  • Host and moderate a knowledge database or online discussion forum around specific topics that are relevant to engineers. You can do this for one company, such as a large, important customer. Or you can open the forum to all engineers, and serve primarily as its moderator:  answering questions, contributing to discussions, and pointing toward other content you’ve created that is useful to your audience.

  • Keep all your content, particularly technical specifications, up to date and easy to use. If your technical content is comprehensive, logically organized, accurate, and easy to access, you can gain a reputation as a supplier that is a trusted source of knowledge and expertise. Engineers will come to depend on you more. 

  • Because engineers are on the move, if you only have a couple of contacts within a company, you risk losing that connection if the engineer changes jobs or retires. Consider a campaign to help update your database by having engineers verify their contact information, asking them to recommend a peer or colleague that would benefit from knowing about your company and products, and encouraging engineers to share your content such as blog posts, articles, and videos so that you can increase your number of contacts. Keep your database updated so you can track engineers who change companies.

Remember, employee loss is inevitable, but the loss of specialized knowledge doesn’t have to be. By focusing on getting relevant, educational content into the hands of engineers, you can become a trusted partner in helping them slow down the loss of institutional knowledge. Ultimately, you’ll help your bottom line as well.

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