The loss of knowledge can arguably be the single most devastating aspect of employee attrition. Knowing what happened and when, why decisions were made they were along the way, the background information about relationships that were formed (and then maybe un-formed!) and the “inside scoop” gets lost the moment an employee leaves your agency. Unless, of course, you have instilled the notion that everyone acts as a historian and is expected to record the key facts about the developments in their projects and relationships with outside entities. “But that’s outrageous!” you say, “I can’t possibly write down every detail of what I do every day!” Yes, you’re right – writing a memoire would be going overboard. Instead, pick the top ten(-ish) aspects of your job (e.g. areas of responsibility, projects, etc.) and semi-annually jot down the answers to these questions:

  • What new key developments have occurred in the last six months?
  • Are there any new promises/agreements that have been established?
  • What important process changes have occurred?
  • What progress has been in each project, area, relationship?
  • Are there any other pieces of information that will be helpful if I’m not with this agency 10 years from now?

Formalize a format, if desired, and then establish a system of where these notes are to be kept and who has access to them. Finally, create a method of how you will a) keep the system going, and b) hold employees accountable.

By the way, if you don’t have an employee with the documented “role” of Historian – get one. Every agency needs a person who maintains the agency’s history. Annual highlights of the agency’s accomplishments should be recorded in a timeline of sorts, with events like: land purchased, buildings renovated/built, partnerships added, new/retired services, outside factors that impacted operations (e.g. major weather events, legal changes, national rulings, etc.). Not only will new employees, board members, and curious community members appreciate the historical document, your marketing team will thank you when they prepare the agency’s 100th anniversary celebration!

The key is to get the information – history – out of your employees’ brains and on to paper. Losing an employee to illness, death, another agency, or retirement does not need to mean the loss of that history forever. Train every employee to act as a historian and set your future agency up for success!