How can knowledge retention help in business continuity when there is a change in top management in an organisation? But first what is knowledge retention? Kim (2005) defines knowledge retention ‘as the capture of knowledge/expertise from employees before they leave an organization’. Newman and Conrad (1999) define knowledge retention as ‘all activities that preserve knowledge and allow it to remain in the system once introduced. It also includes those activities that maintain the viability of knowledge within the system’.
Basing on above definition knowledge retention is concerned with curtailing knowledge loss that may transpire following an exit of a knowledge worker or expert from an organization. Before I attempt to define knowledge retention I would like to define the terms retain and retention. Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines retain as:
‘1 a: to keep in possession or use b: to keep in one's pay or service; specifically: to employ by paying a retainer c: to keep in mind or memory: remember
2: to hold secure or intact’
And retention as ‘1 a: the act of retaining: the state of being retained b: abnormal retaining of a fluid or secretion in a body cavity
2 a: power of retaining: retentiveness b: an ability to retain things in mind; specifically: a preservation of the after effects of experience and learning that makes recall or recognition possible
3: something retained’
Retention is the acting of retaining. To retain, taking Merriam-Webster first meaning, is to keep in possession or use. Knowledge retention can then be defined as the acting or process of keeping in possession and use of knowledge.
Knowledge retention literature focuses mostly on capturing knowledge of workers leaving employment due to retirement, moving to another organisation, among other reasons. Knowledge retention should go further than ensuring the possession of the knowledge of the worker who is leaving to warranting the continued use of the knowledge.
An outgoing CEO will leave behind systems and process, which embodies knowledge. An incoming CEO might not like the systems and process left by his/ her predecessor, but prior to making any quick changes; the CEO should study the systems and process to establish their merits.
Systems, processes and employees are organisation’s knowledge base. It takes years to assemble this knowledge base. The knowledge of the outgoing CEO is captured in systems, processes and employees he/she is leaving behind. A smooth transition is assured by continued observation by the incoming boss of these processes and systems, and retaining head of departments in their position for a time or in definitely.
The maintaining of status quo by the incoming boss guarantees business continuity. An abrupt change in processes or systems or managers can disrupt the running of the organisation. Knowledge retention is more than capturing knowledge of leaving workers. It should also include the use of knowledge base left behind by the employees when they leave. Treated this way knowledge retention ensures business continuity.
Kim, MJ. 2005. Knowledge Retention Enhances Performance-Based Management. http://www.dcma.mil/communicator/fall05/4_business_processes/DCMA_Comm_v05n03_pp49-51.pdf. (Accessed on 26 January 2012)
Newman & Conrad, KW. 1999. A Framework for Characterizing Knowledge Management Methods, Practices, and Technologies. http://www.km-forum.org/KM-Characterization-Framework.pdf (Accessed on 26 January 2012)