Dan Mallin is CEO and founder of Lucya one-stop AI-powered knowledge platform for all the data an organization owns and licenses.
As the economy remains uncertain, many companies need to restructure their businesses and adapt their workforce. Even large and profitable companies have to redesign their business to cope with inflation. In the first half of 2022, big companies such as Peloton, Carvana and Netflix have laid off thousands of employees. Even companies that made a profit — 45 of the top 50 companies were in the black — have laid off this year, with at least 27 of the 50 largest companies collectively laying off more than 100,000 workers, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.
Many companies minimize the immediate and long-term effects of cutting people. As Wharton’s Business Journal says: “Employers often underestimate the cost of layoffs in immediate financial terms, as well as the continued burden it puts on remaining resources – both financially and emotionally…. The toll of layoffs is high. In many industries, layoffs lead to lower productivity and profit.”
That said, not all companies ignore the effects of such actions. There is an increase in the number of companies trying to minimize the impact of succession planning around reorganizations and layoffs. The main thing they are trying to do? Retention of institutional knowledge, a major problem immediately after reorganizations and layoffs. A new focus on technology, such as knowledge management, is helping to minimize the impact of losing people.
The true impact of restructuring
One of the biggest reasons restructuring hits companies so hard – and why productivity takes such a hit – is the immediate loss of knowledge of employees who move or leave the organization. When a company loses people, it also loses the knowledge that each of those employees had, both explicitly and tacitly. This means that companies face costs for training and retraining the remaining employees and future new employees.
Think about it: when someone leaves a company for whatever reason, they leave a whole bunch of documents on Sharepoint, Onedrive or other servers. And once the person leaves, the other team members can’t find anything and the information is untouched and unused. Not only do organizations unknowingly pay to save and preserve the unused documents (and slidedecks, PDFs, etc.), there are also entire teams that can reference or make use of the content. It is critical that everyone in a company has access to the information and knowledge that has already been created.
Companies still have to meet the needs of ‘business as usual’ as they match the workforce to the different needs in the new economy. Increased efficiency will be key to the success of the workers that remain.
How to capture and manage your knowledge
Businesses need to be armed to deal with these kinds of circumstances, and for many, using a knowledge management system is a solid foundation. A recent report from the McKinsey Global Institute found that “improved communication and collaboration through social technologies could increase the productivity of interaction workers by 20 to 25 percent.”
Using a knowledge platform to internally search, gather information, communicate and collaborate dramatically reduces redundancy, saving money and people time and enabling the company to make better decisions faster. McKinsey explains how: “The average interaction worker spends an estimated 28 percent of the work week managing email and nearly 20 percent looking for internal information or locating colleagues who can help with specific tasks.”
Interestingly, after the transition of employment, the remaining employees tend to rely on department subject matter experts (SMEs) to capture lost knowledge. This puts enormous pressure on SMEs — usually some of the highest-paid employees on a team — and pulls them away from profit-generating projects. Even worse, when SMEs leave, all their valuable information goes with them. Having a knowledge management tool—actually used by the team—helps you capture and expose the information your team needs.
As we continue to navigate the post-pandemic business world, companies need to have a plan. For growing or established companies, it is never too late to introduce or integrate a knowledge management strategy to preserve institutional knowledge and proprietary data and facilitate internal communication and collaboration.