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November 2018
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TD Magazine

Lack of Knowledge Sharing Can Cost Millions

Loss of employee productivity due to knowledge gaps is a pricey consequence for organizations.

If you've had trouble finding information at your organization, you're not alone. According to Panopto's Workplace Knowledge and Productivity Report, six in 10 employees find it difficult to get the information they need to do their jobs well.

In many cases, employee departures are responsible for knowledge gaps. This is why a large majority of respondents (85 percent) feel it's important for organizations to document and preserve employees' unique knowledge before they leave a company. Furthermore, 70 percent of respondents agree that when employees leave an organization and take their unique work knowledge with them, it costs the organization time and money to replace it. In fact, the report estimates that preserving and sharing knowledge would save smaller organizations as much as $2 million in employee productivity, and larger organizations could save $200 million or more.

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Participants reported spending an average of five hours per week waiting on others for knowledge, eight hours per week working inefficiently due to a lack of knowledge, and six hours per week duplicating efforts. New hires in particular spend more time asking for information and duplicating efforts than other employees. The report found that new employees spend about 28 hours per month working inefficiently because they are new at their jobs.

Considering this, it may be wise to revisit onboarding processes to improve knowledge sharing and productivity. Although participants reported that it takes at least six months to learn a new job, most received only 2.5 months of formal onboarding on average. If new employees are left to their own devices too early, it is not surprising that they would spend so much time working inefficiently.

Extending onboarding periods may better prepare new hires for their roles. ATD Research's Onboard, Engage, and Develop: How Organizations Improve Effectiveness recommends that onboarding programs last anywhere from three months to a full year. Providing ongoing support to employees as they learn their new jobs can help ensure they have access to the knowledge they need for optimal job performance.

About the Author

Shauna Robinson is a research analyst at the Association for Talent Development (ATD), where she prepares surveys, analyzes data, and writes research reports and short case studies. Her previous positions at ATD include human capital specialist and communities of practice coordinator.

Prior to working for ATD, Shauna was a senior editorial assistant at Wiley in San Francisco, California. Shauna received a bachelor’s degree in English from UC Berkeley, and she is currently attending the University of Connecticut remotely to obtain a master's degree in survey research.

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