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It walks right out the door of your buildings almost every day, and you probably do not even notice it. Supervisors and technicians carry it with them — it is vast but not heavy at all — and it is essential for the safe, reliable, efficient operation of every institutional or commercial facility.
“It” is institutional knowledge about your facilities, and your organization is very likely suffering from its loss.
Maintenance and engineering managers face a host of well-known challenges — budgets, staffs, and deferred maintenance, to name a few — but over three days at our NFMT Conference and Expo in Baltimore last month, the issue of lost institutional knowledge took its place as a high-priority challenge that has many managers perplexed.
How does institutional knowledge escape? The biggest culprits are older workers. For a decade or more, financial and competitive forces have squeezed organizations, and the response often has been to trim workforces. One result is an exodus of long-tenured workers who take their knowledge and experience with them when they leave the organization.
Without that information, managers and their staffs must re-learn many of the intricacies of facilities and systems. The cost of doing can be high, and the process takes valuable time. What can managers do?
Identify resources. Supervisors and technicians who have worked in a facility the longest know the most. Start with them.
Emphasize sharing. Set up mentoring and job-sharing plans that focus on passing vital facilities knowledge to younger staff.
Make it official. Give the process structure by setting expectations, scheduling discussions and following up to assess progress.