Has it really been a month since I last wrote a proper blog post? What a busy month it’s been, too.
I’m moving on from my current job, taking a break before starting a new role in January.
This is my final day, so after the frantic period of activity running up to this week’s staff awards event I’ve settled down to write my handover notes.
Distilling two years’ work into a few pages is proving quite difficult. What’s struck me most is the frequency with which I’ve suggested my replacement “speak to so-and-so” to get a particular task done.
My email account will be closed and eventually deleted after I leave. That means the many detailed, lengthy and sometimes just plain weird discussions I’ve had with colleagues will vanish into the ether, just as the results of face-to-face conversations I’ve had will leave when I do.
This all underscores the value of human memory. I had no handover notes at all when I started here, so learning how to get even simple tasks done was a long and complicated process.
As people leave their employers they take with them detailed knowledge of people and processes, built up over years or even decades. While replacement staff may be easier to find in the current job market, their knowledge of the organisation will take much longer to develop.
Employers, as well as new employees, would benefit from finding improved ways to capture this organisational memory.
Internal social networking can enable that inter-generational transfer of knowledge between new employees and old-timers.
It needn’t be technologically complex, though. At an event I attended earlier this year, Euan Semple spoke about talk.gateway, the bulletin board he introduced at the BBC.
“Staff members shared more information outside the organisation and with people in other countries than they did with each other. We had to give them an infrastructure or mechanism to talk to each other online,” he says. “I wanted to introduce social computing tools on the intranet and started with a bulletin board.”
talk.gateway allowed staff to ask questions, find solutions and connect with each other. Crucially, though, it’s archived and searchable, which means discussions can be viewed even after the people involved in it have moved on.
More and more organisations are introducing internal Facebook-style social networking, including some in the public sector. Carl Haggerty’s innovative internal social networking pilot in Devon Country Council led to a sharp decrease in helpdesk calls, as employees solve problems by using each other’s knowledge.
Networks like this also enable newer employees to ask questions of and learn from longer-serving ones, helping people settle in and get up to speed with the job.
My (as yet unappointed) successor will have to make do with twelve pages detailing my key processes and projects. I wish them well, and look forward to the next challenge – watch this space!