We all know of institutions whose policies and culture are well known to the public, even those who have never been to the particular institutions. Despite having employees and other stakeholders come and leave the institution, such institutions have been able to pass down institutional information throughout the years. Institutional memory or knowledge refers to information, history, policies, operational methods, and techniques that an institution develops over time. The institution could be a hospital, school, hotel, manufacturing firm, or bank.
How are some institutions able to pass down organizational knowledge over the years while others struggle to create and maintain institutional culture and memory? Here are some ways to preserve institutional knowledge.
1. Capture Institutional Knowledge
The first step to preserving institutional memory is by capturing the information and keeping it. Today there are many tools available to capture and store information. You could use videos to capture institutional events. The institution can use the videos years later to pass on information. For example, during the launch of a particular product, capturing the event could provide a lot of information in the future. This could be details of the product, speeches from CEOs, or event organizations that sets the pace for future events.
You can also have a database with organizational knowledge and decide how you want to share this information. For instance, if your enterprise makes pastries, you could have the recipes that have been used over the years stored physically or digitally. The information may be made available to the relevant employees if you have concerns over sharing proprietary details with employees who don’t need to know this.
2. Make Organizational Knowledge a Standard
An effective method of ensuring that you preserve institutional memory is by making its knowledge a standard. Put in place avenues and schedules that ensure everybody in the company has this information through knowledge activation. Similar to how an organization would have a session to train the sales and marketing team on a product, set a time to teach employees. For general knowledge of the institution, you can do this during orientation. However, more technical expertise like product processes could require more structured learning like courses or workshops.
3. Create a Conducive Environment For Information Sharing
Institutional memory is necessary to ensure the longevity of a brand; thus, preserving both positive and negative information is vital for success. Transparency in capturing, preserving, and sharing organizational memory encourages the current employees to share knowledge and contribute to the institution. Acknowledging past failures prevent a repeat of the mistakes.
4. Motivate Employees and Leaders
While using technical tools like videos, presentations, and booklets is a valuable method of passing along institutional memory, people are the key to creating a legacy. If the people within the institution are reluctant to share organizational knowledge, it becomes difficult to preserve this information. Sometimes leaders may refuse to pass along knowledge to maintain a certain “status quo.” This ultimately hurts the institution as a whole. Motivating employees to make knowledge contributions aids in information preservation.
Accommodate the incorporation of new information into the existing database of institutional knowledge. You can recognize and award employees for their knowledge contributions. You could also encourage new employees to share their experiences and expectations of the institution and discuss them.
5. Plan Employee Exists
Employees who have been with an institution for a long time have a vast wealth of institutional memory. If you want to preserve institutional knowledge, you can’t have older employees leave at the same time. Therefore you need to plan retiring schedules or retrenchments so that the institution doesn’t only have new employees. You could plan sessions where older employees set to retire share institutional knowledge with the employees they leave behind in the organization.
Institutional memory is a crucial asset as it consists of years of experience, insights, and decisions that an organization has made over the years. It also contributes significantly to the legacy building. Organizations should endeavour to capture and preserve this information as it contributes to the growth and success of the institution in the future.
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