The Tactic against Knowledge Loss

By 2036, companies will face the challenge of coping with the loss of knowledge due to the retirement of a third of the workforce, which will be further exacerbated by the high-frequency job changes of Generation Z. To counteract this, knowledge retention will be crucial in order to effectively utilize and preserve both the tacit knowledge of long-standing employees and the fresh, digital know-how of younger generations. 

On this page:
    Why companies suffer a loss of knowledge

    Retirement of 30% of the Workforce

    By 2036, 12.9 million of the working population (in Germany) will have reached retirement age. This trend will also set for mostly every other industrial country.

    Companies will therefore face the major challenge of a third of the workforce retiring in the next 12 years. The reason why the proportion of soon-to-be retirees is so high is that the baby boomers, the largest cohorts in terms of numbers, will reach retirement age in the next few years (Statistisches Bundesamt). 

    This will further intensify the labor shortage for the economy. But even if companies find staff to fill their vacancies, they still face a major problem. 

    As the former specialists retire, so will their knowledge of company internals, business processes, workflows, decision-making processes and experience. Companies will suffer a huge loss of knowledge. 

    The future retirement of key personnel means that both explicit and implicit knowledge will be lost. Explicit knowledge is everything that can be easily explained and written down. Therefore, the problem of knowledge loss is mainly related to the implicit knowledge of employees, as it represents everything that describes the actions of employees. How something is done, why something is done, what decision is made, how it came about, how colleagues obtain information and to what extent they work together. This knowledge is held by long-serving employees who will be retiring in the near future. The loss of this knowledge will bring business processes and the handling of internal company communication and procedures to a standstill, if not to a complete halt. 

    Company Hopping by GenZ

    However, the retirement of knowledge holders is not the only decisive factor for the future loss of knowledge in companies. 

    The high frequency of job changes among the next generation (GenZ: born 1990-2010) is also fueling the major challenge facing companies: the loss of knowledge. 

    Generally speaking, GenZ is considered to be the next generation of highly motivated workers. Because they have grown up with technology, GenZ workers have a particular affinity for digitalization. Due to their young age and often their first professional experience after university or college, they are particularly eager to learn and bring new ideas and new teaching content – a breath of fresh air – into the company. However, GenZ is also characterized by the high frequency of job changes – company hopping. 

    Yet, the new, fresh knowledge that GenZ employees bring with them from university/college, which creates modernity, progressive digitalization, and relevance for companies, is lost when young employees change jobs. 

    Knowledge Loss and Knowledge Transfer

    Companies are now faced with the challenge of halting the steady loss of knowledge! So that, on the one hand, the routine and in-depth knowledge of employees is not lost when they retire and, on the other hand, the new knowledge of the dynamic GenZ employees is not lost. 

    Due to the new vacancies, new hires and thus the high demand for training, it is clear that in addition to the loss of knowledge, knowledge transfer is becoming a challenge for companies. 

    In order to overcome these challenges, knowledge conservation is becoming the new must-have for companies. 

    Knowledge conservation

    To prevent the loss of knowledge and for knowledge transfer, it is necessary to store the existing explicit and, above all, implicit knowledge of employees and make it transparent for new/upcoming employees. 

    1. The first step in doing this is to identify key people as knowledge carriers on an interdisciplinary basis. 
    2. The implicit knowledge of these key people must then be captured. This is only possible if the right methodology and the right question structures are used to make the deep-seated knowledge, which is usually hidden in routine, retrievable and describable for the employees. 
    3. The captured knowledge is then stored. Digitalization makes it possible to map the knowledge to the processes for which the knowledge is required. The mapping is based on “rules” and can be made transparent for employees at different levels of abstraction. 

    It is important for any knowledge conservation system that more and more knowledge from the minds of employees is incrementally stored in software so that the knowledge is not lost when employees retire or change jobs. 

    Automated access to knowledge?

    Is knowledge conservation or digital, automated access to knowledge the right solution for your company? → In short: YES

    Concerns are often raised about employees being replaced by the software, but these concerns are easy to dispel here: by storing knowledge and accessing it digitally, employees are not replaced! No workforce is “automated away” here. The storage and retrieval of knowledge merely facilitate the work of the user through the software. 

    With software-based knowledge conservation in your company, you can stem the loss of knowledge and give employees the opportunity to have transparency about the knowledge of the company and its members. Knowledge conservation and use by the software make your employees more efficient and thus optimize your processes. 

    The knowledge is accessible to all trained users of the software and is not kept hidden in the heads of some employees or lost when they leave the company. For employees, knowledge conservation creates great transparency and clarity about the process steps and the rules according to which the business processes run and decisions are made. This generally leads to increased motivation and employee satisfaction. 

    In addition, knowledge conservation and access to knowledge also creates the advantage for the dynamic corporate culture that new employees can be trained more quickly and efficiently. 

    GenerationZ employees are very dynamic when it comes to changing jobs, and companies can only keep up with this by retaining knowledge. The high fluctuation of young employees can even be slowed down within the company itself by encouraging GenZ employees not to go company-hopping, but to aim for an internal job change. Internal job changes are facilitated by the storage of knowledge and the resulting transparency and uncomplicated training. This makes it possible to retain young people in the company despite the need to change jobs. The thirst for experience of the GenZ and the retention of qualified employees in the company can therefore be combined through knowledge conservation. 


    How can my company cope with this?

    You are probably asking yourself: How should my company manage this very important knowledge conservation? 

    Bisonaire can help you! 🤓 Our bisonaire SCAN project creates transparency regarding your business architecture, processes and the interaction of processes with IT systems. The bisonaire SCAN is therefore the right project to prepare the knowledge conservation described here, because we use a SCAN to find interdisciplinary knowledge carriers. We identify your employees’ knowledge and ways to store it for your company. 

    This is adapted to your processes and IT infrastructure. The bisonaire SCAN uses a specially developed analysis tool to bring to light the deep-seated implicit knowledge structures of your employees. 

    A SCAN is used to identify the knowledge itself and the potential for knowledge conservation in your systems. In addition, measures for actual knowledge conservation are defined to present the possibility of digital knowledge conservation. 

    The SCAN offers you all the necessary steps, and more, to counteract the (future) loss of knowledge due to the retirement and company hopping of GenZ in your company.