Why Your Company Needs a Knowledge Retention Plan (and How to Create One)

Protect your company's valuable knowledge with a retention plan. Learn why it's vital and how to create one in this comprehensive guide.
Why Your Company Needs a Knowledge Retention Plan (and How to Create One)


In today’s fast-paced business environment, companies are constantly facing turnover among their employees. Whether it’s through retirement, resignation, or layoffs, losing valuable employees can also mean losing their knowledge and experience. That’s why it’s crucial for companies to have a knowledge retention plan in place.

A knowledge retention plan is a strategic approach to identifying, retaining, and transferring essential knowledge within the organization. This guide will explain the importance of having a knowledge retention plan and provide a step-by-step guide for creating one.

By the end of this guide, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge and tools to develop a plan that ensures your company retains its critical knowledge even if key employees leave.

Why a Knowledge Retention Plan?

Losing valuable knowledge can have serious consequences for a company. Knowledge loss can occur in a variety of ways, such as employee turnover, retirement, or downsizing. When key employees leave a company or retire, their knowledge and experience may leave with them. This can lead to a decline in productivity and efficiency.

In addition, a lack of knowledge retention can result in a loss of institutional memory, which refers to an organization’s collective knowledge and experience. Institutional memory allows employees to learn from past experiences and apply that knowledge to improve future outcomes. When institutional memory is lost, valuable lessons and insights are also lost.

Having a knowledge retention plan in place can help mitigate these risks. A knowledge retention plan is a systematic approach to capturing and preserving the knowledge and experience of employees within an organization. By establishing a plan, companies can identify key knowledge areas and ensure that this knowledge is retained and transferred to new employees.

A knowledge retention plan can also help maintain operational continuity during times of change. For example, a company that has experienced a major organizational change, such as a merger or acquisition, can use its knowledge retention plan to ensure that critical knowledge is retained and transferred to new employees. This can help minimize disruption and maintain productivity.

In short, a knowledge retention plan is essential for any organization that values its knowledge and wants to maintain a competitive edge in today’s fast-paced business environment.

How to Create a Knowledge Retention Plan

Creating a knowledge retention plan may seem like a daunting task, but it is essential for preserving critical knowledge within your organization. These are the steps you can follow to create an effective knowledge retention plan:

Identify Key Knowledge Areas

Before creating a plan, you need to determine what knowledge your organization needs to retain. Start by identifying which departments, roles, or functions within your organization possess this critical knowledge. Once you have identified these areas, you can determine the best strategies for preserving the knowledge within them.

Determine Who Has the Knowledge

Once you have identified the areas of critical knowledge, determine who has this knowledge and how they acquired it. This may require in-depth interviews with employees and cross-functional teams to identify the specific skills and knowledge required to perform their roles effectively.

Assess Risks and Potential Consequences

It’s essential to identify and address potential risks that could result in the loss of critical knowledge. Some common risks include employee turnover, retirement, and sudden absence due to injury or illness. By understanding potential risks, you can formulate an effective plan that addresses these concerns proactively.

Create and Implement the Plan

Now that you have identified the knowledge areas, the people who possess the knowledge, and potential risks, it’s time to create a plan. The knowledge retention plan should include specific policies, procedures, and strategies to address potential risks while preserving critical knowledge.

It’s essential to ensure that everyone in the organization is aware of the goals and procedures outlined in the plan. This may require training or communication programs.

Continual Updates and Maintenance

A knowledge retention plan is not a one-time effort. As your organization changes, grows, or evolves, so should your knowledge retention strategy. Ensure that the plan stays up-to-date with the current situation within your organization, and you continue to refine or update your retention strategy to meet new requirements.

By following these steps, you can create an effective knowledge retention plan that preserves critical knowledge while proactively addressing potential risks. Remember that implementing a knowledge retention plan requires time, effort, and resources; however, the benefits will be worth the investment.

Benefits of a Knowledge Retention Plan

Implementing a knowledge retention plan can have many benefits for your company, including:

Improved productivity and efficiency

When employees have access to the knowledge they need to perform their jobs effectively, they are able to work more efficiently. A knowledge retention plan can help ensure that critical knowledge is not lost when employees leave the company, reducing the time and resources required to train new employees and get them up to speed. This can lead to increased productivity and cost savings over time.

Decreased risk of knowledge loss

One of the biggest risks associated with losing knowledge is the potential impact on your business operations. For example, if a key employee leaves and takes critical knowledge with them, it could disrupt your processes and negatively impact your bottom line. With a knowledge retention plan in place, you can minimize this risk and ensure that critical knowledge is preserved and shared with others as needed.

Ability to transfer knowledge to new employees

As your workforce evolves and new employees come on board, it’s important to have a way to transfer knowledge from experienced employees to those who are new to the company. A knowledge retention plan can facilitate this process by identifying key knowledge areas and ensuring that this information is shared with new hires. This can help new employees get up to speed more quickly and be more productive in their roles.

Increased employee engagement and job satisfaction

When employees feel valued and supported by their employer, they are more likely to be engaged and satisfied in their jobs. Implementing a knowledge retention plan can help employees feel more secure in their roles, knowing that their knowledge and contributions are recognized and valued by the company. This can lead to increased employee engagement and job satisfaction, which can have a positive impact on retention and overall organizational success.

In summary, a knowledge retention plan can bring many benefits to your company, including improved productivity, decreased risk of knowledge loss, the ability to transfer knowledge to new employees, and increased employee engagement and job satisfaction. By taking the time to create and implement a plan, you can ensure that critical knowledge is preserved and shared within your organization, leading to better outcomes for your business.

Case Studies

Example 1: A Manufacturing Company

A manufacturing company noticed that its production line was not meeting its output targets and there were a lot of production downtimes due to machine breakdowns. The company realized that this was due to a lack of knowledge retention plan in place. The company was dependent on employees with high levels of expertise, and when these employees left the company, their knowledge left with them, resulting in a decrease in efficiency. The company implemented a knowledge retention plan that included identifying critical knowledge areas, creating job aids, and conducting knowledge transfer sessions. As a result, the company’s production line output increased by over 20%, and downtime due to machine breakdowns decreased by 50%.

Example 2: A Consulting Firm

A consulting firm had high employee turnover, which resulted in knowledge loss and a decline in the quality of work delivered to clients. The company realized the need for a knowledge retention plan and decided to implement it. The company identified key knowledge areas, institutionalized a culture of sharing and collaboration, and created a knowledge sharing platform where employees could share knowledge easily. The company also introduced job rotation to ensure all employees acquire a wide range of skills and knowledge. These initiatives significantly reduced employee turnover, increased the quality of work, and improved the company’s reputation.

Example 3: A Hospital

A hospital realized the need for a comprehensive knowledge retention plan after some of its senior staff retired, taking with them years of experience. The hospital identified critical knowledge areas and conducted knowledge transfer sessions with retiring staff. The hospital also created job aids and guidelines that would be useful for future reference. There was also an institutionalization of a culture of learning, which included continuous professional development for staff, ensuring that the hospital remained up to date with the latest medical practices. The knowledge retention plan resulted in increased operational efficiency, enhanced patient care, and improved morale among staff.

These case studies show that Knowledge retention plans are beneficial to organizations. By implementing knowledge retention plans, companies can decrease the risk of knowledge loss, increase productivity and efficiency, enhance employee engagement and satisfaction and ensure a successful knowledge transfer process.


In today’s competitive business environment, knowledge is power, and organizations that neglect the importance of knowledge retention do so at their own peril. Losing key knowledge can result in inefficiencies, mistakes, lost opportunities, and ultimately, decreased profitability.

As we’ve seen in this guide, creating and implementing a knowledge retention plan is crucial for any organization that values its intellectual capital. By following the step-by-step guide outlined in this guide, companies can identify areas where important knowledge resides, assess the risks of losing that knowledge, and develop and implement a plan to capture, preserve, and transfer that knowledge to current and future employees.

The benefits of a knowledge retention plan are significant and include increased productivity and efficiency, decreased risk of knowledge loss, the ability to transfer knowledge to new employees, and increased employee engagement and job satisfaction.

In conclusion, we encourage all organizations to develop and implement a knowledge retention plan as a key element of their business strategy. With the right plan in place, companies can safeguard their intellectual capital, stay competitive, and achieve long-term success. For more information on knowledge management best practices and tools, we recommend exploring the resources listed below.

  • “Knowledge Management Best Practices” by Carla O’Dell and C. Jackson Grayson
  • “The Knowledge-Creating Company” by Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi
  • “Knowledge Management in Theory and Practice” by Kimiz Dalkir
  • “The New Edge in Knowledge” by Carla O’Dell and Cindy Hubert.

Remember, knowledge is power, and a knowledge retention plan can be a powerful tool for any organization.