How to Entice Your Employees to Buy Into Knowledge Sharing

The Classic Customer Problem:

Businesses come to us over and over again with the same problem: the tasks carried out within their organisations every day aren’t documented.

Let’s take a look at an example. Bill has been the main operator of a particular machine for 20 years. Only Bill has the expertise required to fully operate and troubleshoot the machine.  Subsequently, when other staff members operate the machine they are not able to do so efficiently. They do not produce as much product, they generate more waste, and they often rely on Bill for assistance, impeding his ability to effectively complete other tasks.

Bill has not been able to effectively communicate his knowledge to the younger and newer members of the team. Bill isn’t a trainer and when he tries to communicate information to these newer, younger members there are a number of communication problems. Sometimes it is as if Bill and the younger team members were speaking two different languages altogether.

Bill, however, does not own his specialised knowledge of the machine that he operates. The business does. He acquired the knowledge while working for them, in their environment, on their machine.

The situation is highly problematic, especially considering that Bill is getting older. The business always fears his requests for annual leave, and is made even more nervous by the fact that Bill is considering retirement in the upcoming years. While management does not want to offend Bill they do feel it is important to record the information in a manner that allows it to most effectively communicated and utilised in order to meet organisations performance goals.

The business also recognises that older employees like Bill tend to stay in jobs longer.  In contrast, the younger members of today’s workforce change jobs much more frequently. Because of this higher turnover rate businesses need to transmit information to new and younger employees quickly and efficiently in order to maintain required production levels. Ensuring that all staff members have both the information and tools necessary to perform their day-to-day tasks is vital in maintaining a measurable and sustainable workforce.

How can the business secure this crucial knowledge before Bill retires?  How can the business use this knowledge to maximise production? How can they ensure that it can be used to effectively train other employees in order to prevent drops in production when Bill is on leave?

 

How Can We Fix This Problem?

The way to fix this problem is to foster employee buy-in. Employee buy-in occurs when employees understand the mission of the company for which they work. They understand and are committed to the goals of the company and are dedicated to the success of the company. Employees who buy-in to their company tend to feel that their work has a meaning and a purpose. They are typically engaged with the company and are willing to go that extra mile–  they care about getting their work done and they care about getting it done well.

Employers need to actively work to promote employee buy-in. To build this buy-in managers need to make sure that employees understand how their work contributes to the goals and mission of the company. Perhaps most importantly, a crucial part of promoting employee buy-in is ensuring that all important company knowledge, information, and procedures are documented. This ensures that employees have all of the necessary information to succeed and also helps employees see how specific tasks are directly related to company goals.

However, the buy-in process can be a bit tricky, especially when it comes time to ask employees to document their specialised knowledge. It is very common for companies with employees with specialised knowledge like Bill to approach the employee and ask him or her to document what he or she does on a day-to-day basis.  This approach has a number of associated risks. First and foremost, this process often takes a considerable about of time. Secondly, this process often yields documents that are either inaccurate or are ineffective for a number of different reasons:

  • Employees fear redundancy or replacement when they are asked to document their business knowledge.
  • Employees are often daunted by requests from internal management, feeling overwhelmed and intimidated.
  • Oftentimes, an employee’s familiarity with and closeness to a topic will hinder their ability to adequately explain it.  The employee will frequently miss the vital steps, thinking of them as “common sense.”  However, not everyone will innately know automatic steps.  It might seem obvious to flick on the power switch before using the machine but how would a new, inexperienced person even know where to find the switch?
  • Companies frequently use office staff to interview knowledgeable staff and document processes. Not only is this time consuming but the technical aspect and requirements can’t be properly validated by someone who doesn’t fully understand all of the details of the information.
  • The internal review process of documents is often full of snags and delays due to a lack of a sense of urgency. This unnecessarily draws out the documentation process.
  • Documents are never validated by a technical writer to ensure correct terminology, content consistency, and overall cohesiveness and coherence. Therefore while these documents take a significant amount of time and money to produce they oftentimes still fail to provide the company with the results it require.

 

How does DS TechWrite get around this?

  • When an external entity approaches staff, it reduces the immediate threat. Our writers are not interested in taking the jobs of your employees and are therefore a neutral presence. They aren’t perceived as dangerous or intimidating.
  • We understand and are prepared to manage any hesitation from the staff.
  • Our writers all have technical backgrounds and know the right questions to ask, ensuring that no steps, even the small ones, are excluded from the documentation process.
  • Our writers all hold advanced training qualifications. They make use of adult learning methodologies have a proven track record of success in training environments.
  • We engage employees and solicit their participation throughout the data gathering and feedback stages to ensure the production of accurate, complete, and thorough instructions.
  • We can secure your businesses knowledge, eliminating the risk that it will walk out the door. By securing this knowledge we can also create a positive, buy-in culture amongst your team to ensure future documentation of key knowledge, information, and processes.

Call today and ask to see our compatibility statement for details on our data gathering, documentation, review, and document finalisation processes. Our methodologies have a track record of success and ensure complete employee buy in during and after your documentation project. We assure that we help to embed buy-in within your company cultural so that you can use it as an asset that drives continued success within your business.

 

How good is your documentation? Why it’s essential for your company’s compliance, IP protection and productivity optimisation

It’s usually not until your organisation encounters an emergency or predicament that you realise exactly how much of your operational information is not written down and available. Sadly, a crisis point is not the time for engaging in the task of laboriously detailing your company’s policies and procedures.Thorough documentation of your organisation needs to happen long before this point.

Organisations that rely only on the knowledge of long term employees to operate, maintain and configure  specialist machinery or perform specialist tasks are at high risk of having their productivity interrupted if that employee is suddenly detained from their work for any reason – illness, accident. Having maintenance, operational and procedural manuals on hand is an insurance policy that guarantees should that employee be absent for any reason, and for any period of time, production will continue

If your documentation is insufficient or non-existent, your organisation will be at risk of loss of productivity or periods of interruptions which will prove costly.

Properly documenting your procedures can actually also lead to achieving maximum production  to ensure a positive outcome for succession plans. The exercise itself of studying procedures closely enough to document them, can lead directly to the identification of areas of improvements to be made in your operation.

The requirements of organisations today to enhance productivity, comply with legislation, as well as protect Intellectual Property, has driven a surge in demand for our services. As Australia’s premier technical writing firm, we have been engaged by some of Australia’s largest organisations  in food processing, building supplies and even breweries to capture, document and protect everything from operation maintenance and procedural manuals to policy and training documentation.

You’d be surprised by the critical information required by organisations which is not captured or accessible by those who truly need it.  Documentation like standard operating procedures, maintenance and training manuals for major manufacturing plants, are often absent, incomplete or out of date. We send in one of our writers to work almost as part of that company.

They’ll ask all the questions, including the silly ones, that are all too often taken for granted within an organisation, and write up the information to a grade 9 English level, so it’s easily understood by any audience, and captures everything the company’s staff need to know to do their jobs safety and efficiently.

Not documenting your information correctly means that your company is potentially vulnerable to productivity disruptions, additional expenditure and all kinds of possibly disastrous situations. You also need to ask yourself, ‘if I don’t have our information captured somewhere, then how can I own it?’

Something we feel very strongly about here is that when we finish documenting a client’s information, they own their IP, not us. If you are employing technical writers to document your systems, you need to make sure that this is the case. If you look at the fine print, you’ll find many technical writing firms own your IP once they’ve completed your documentation.

Legal compliance and protection, particularly surrounding WH&S issues is another compelling driver for you to document your information. With WH&S and employment legislation becoming an even greater focus for organisations today, ensuring your employees have access to effective training, policy, procedure and operational references is vital to ensure the safety of both your employees and your business.

Having documented policies, procedures and operational requirements, is vital to ensure your organisation can make the managerial decisions required to maintain WH&S compliance, and secure productivity levels.

Company documents, like training, procedural and maintenance manuals, are no longer viewed as ‘icing on the cake’, or something to get around to sometime in the future. They safeguard your  company’s information, offer legal protection, assist to achieve and sustain maximum productivity, and ensure the customer’s deliverables match the quality of your product.

Comprehensive documentation is now a necessity for businesses in order for you to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Preserving the productivity of your organisation through adequate documentation

If you, or one of your key staff members, were unexpectedly absent from your organisation for any length of time, what would happen? Would business carry on as usual? In most cases, the answer is a resounding no. Too often, much of the critical information necessary for the smooth operation of a business is stored only in the minds of long-serving team members. The unexpected absence of such a person, from an accident, illness, family emergency, a sudden resignation or even retirement can seriously affect production.

This, amongst many other reasons, is why comprehensive documentation of your company’s operations can act as a guarantee that production will not be disrupted under such circumstances.

How detailed documentation can maximise your productivity

We are often called upon by organisations in general industry, manufacturing and mining to provide detailed documentation on their plant’s operations in the form of parts and operation manuals, maintenance manuals, work instructions, policies, procedures and training guides.

These documents not only provide the assurance that production will be unaffected in an emergency, but they are the foundation for achieving and sustaining maximum productivity, efficiency and safety. Having this type of documentation available to new or existing staff is paramount to ensuring maximum productivity.

An example of how important it is to have comprehensive documentation arose with a major manufacturing client of DS Techwrite. The client had a hydrogen production plant as part of their operation, however, over time; the staff who had been able to use the equipment had left the company, taking with them the skills and knowledge required for operation. Eventually, the plant lay idle, and the company had to purchase hydrogen from a supplier at a cost of $300k pa.

DS Techwrite was engaged by the client to formulate the necessary documentation to act as an operation manual for the entire plant. The topic was raised by the client of the old unused hydrogen production plant. We took this on board and developed not only the operational material, but also the maintenance manual for this part of the plant. At the conclusion of our documentation, the client was able to re-engage the idle machinery and produce their own hydrogen, negating the need to purchase from a supplier and saving the company significant costs.

Such documents are referred to on a day-to-day basis. Comprehensively documenting your company’s operation will guarantee a higher level of safety, as well as arming your staff with the vital information they need to develop into a confident and successful working team.

A solid base of documentation and specific reference material is now considered essential to enable integrated work management and procurement processes, which in turn, maximises the company’s growth, profitability and safety.

Why call on the professionals?

Establishing this library of documents is no easy task. Using an organisation’s internal experts to write these manuals may capture the main information, but it’s the essential background details that can be taken for granted, and inadvertently left out. The absence of such details can relegate the entire document useless at best, or even potentially create a dangerous situation.

The advantage of employing an external entity to write the documentation means that no piece of information is taken for granted. There’s never a case of ‘not seeing the forest for the trees’, so to speak.

Our writers all have industry and trade backgrounds and are trained to write technical documents that are comprehensive yet easy to understand. They aren’t afraid to ask the ‘silly’ questions in order to achieve complete clarification on the operation. Employing an external source also has the added benefit of not having to take a team member away from their role to document procedures, a task that can prove extremely time-consuming.

If you feel your organisation’s documentation is inadequate, now is the time to act. Don’t wait for an emergency to discover how vulnerable you are to productivity disruptions.