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Preserving Institutional Knowledge in the Utilities Sector

Mar 3, 2020

Back to Veoci BlogPreserving Institutional Knowledge in the Utilities Sector

Institutional knowledge is a topic that Veoci has delved into before, but it is especially crucial in the context of utility companies. As older workers are in the midst of a mass retirement exodus, younger workers and fresh college graduates are finding themselves stepping up to fill many of the vacated positions at utility companies. 

Unfortunately, staff turnover can often lead to a loss of essential knowledge about the inner workings of a utility, thus affecting the operations of the organization. However, by changing the way they preserve internal talent and by bolstering communication, utilities can limit the loss of institutional knowledge. 

Preparing for Retirements

Energy Central cites that “up to one-third of workers maintaining the state's power, cable and water lines could hit retirement age within the next 10 years.” This huge volume of retirements poses problems for the utilities sector because these men and women possess a large amount of knowledge that is unique to them. 

If they leave without passing down the essential knowledge they’ve gained throughout their years of work, the company not only suffers the loss of an employee, but the loss of all the information that employee collected throughout their career. This could cause serious lapses in production or expensive retraining costs. 

According to HigherEdJobs, there are multiple ways utilities can work to preserve institutional knowledge in their facilities including “observation of work units, employee communications, review or work processes, finding other ways to get the work done, and adopting technology.” 

All of these involve creating open communication between employees and ensuring that an individual is not the only one with information regarding internal processes. It’s crucial to breakdown the siloed nature of an organization and create bridges and transparency between various roles. This helps ensure that knowledge is more accessible and not confined to one individual. 

Retaining Key Staff

Another way to promote communication is to have more experienced employees train new staff and act as their mentors. It’s also essential to keep these new employees, not just those who are experienced. Unfortunately, a lack of preserved institutional knowledge can lead to the loss of newer staff members.

“The failure to retain and transfer institutional knowledge,” says HigherEdJobs, “could result in a steady increase in employee turnover and further loss of institutional knowledge, translating into higher costs and lower institutional efficiency.”

The American Public Power Association discusses the effort utilities are making to retain employees. This is especially crucial for smaller utilities because one position may fill numerous functions. Therefore, losing the foundational knowledge of one individual carries much more weight. 

Utilities are reframing their organizations to appeal more to younger generations. This includes higher pay, which can help prevent the cost of employee turnover later down the road, team-oriented work environments, and better marketing of the utility industry so it’s seen as a public service to potential applicants. 

It’s not just from retirements that institutional knowledge is lost. High turnover rates sever critical lines of communication. Newer employees, who were trained by veteran employees, take their knowledge with them when they go as well. 

Preserving Institutional Knowledge with Technology

Fortunately, technology tools can not only help you capture the knowledge that would be otherwise lost from retirements, but they can create a culture of communication that will help retain current employees. 

Communication platforms can serve as a log of data by not only documenting processes and procedures, but by storing employee correspondence that new employees can later read through and gather information from.

The storage of knowledge and correspondence essentially creates a library of information, which promotes visibility across your organization and can limit the loss of institutional knowledge spread by verbal or written communication.  

Streamline Communication with Veoci 

Veoci naturally lends to the preservation of institutional knowledge. The cloud-based operational platform allows you to build workflows, assign tasks, and create forms that store all their data unless archived by an administrator. 

This essentially creates a timeline of everything an employee is doing around their essential functions. It also establishes a structure that can be easily adopted by new employees. 

Veoci is also a patented communication platform. Threaded chat features, and SMS, email, and phone capabilities not only make it easy to reach employees, but track all of the communication that is happening between personnel. This log of data is an excellent reference point and helps preserve institutional knowledge. 

Make the Sharing of Institutional Knowledge a Priority

With the large amount of retirements on the horizon for utility companies, and a large influx of new employees coming in, it’s more crucial than ever for utility companies to preserve the institutional knowledge held by veteran employees.

Fortunately, there are many ways to share that knowledge and retain employees in your organization. Technology is a key component in preserving data and creating transparency company-wide. 

The best way to solve issues is to get ahead of them. Preserving institutional knowledge, luckily, isn’t too difficult with the options currently on the market for utilities; it’s just a matter of implementing the solutions before the knowledge is lost.  

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cassandra Whitman

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