How to Retain Your Facility Management Workforce Knowledge

Published on 23 May, 2023read time 6 mins
3 people Retain their Facility Management Workforce Knowledge illustrated

You identify and hire the most relevant candidates to join the ranks in your facility management, operations and maintenance teams. You invest in mentoring, training and upskilling them. Slowly but surely, you manage to build a well-oiled workforce that knows the ins and outs of your facility, what strategies work and what don’t, and which situations require which solution.

But there’s something missing from the plan. What happens when these employees leave? How do you protect your investment, especially if you’re a small organization with a greater chance of losing key personnel to larger organizations? What’s more, organizations are looking at a mass exodus of knowledge as the great retirement hits the facilities management industry.

Your organization wants to be prepared for the future with all the knowledge and experience that the workforce has gained over the years. While you can’t always prevent workers from leaving, you can prevent critical knowledge from walking out the door with a solid knowledge retention strategy.

What is knowledge retention?

Knowledge retention generally refers to the process of gathering and retaining information so it can be used later. The concept has applications across industries, and educators, managers, and leaders have deemed it a critical strategic resource.

Individuals retain knowledge by transferring it from short-term to long-term memory. But knowledge retention is different for individuals and organizations.

Within an organization, knowledge retention is a way of building “organizational memory” by capturing and preserving the knowledge of your entire workforce, including culture, industry expertise, processes, structures and external activities.

For organizations, retaining workforce knowledge can help establish and maintain a competitive advantage. When you identify business-critical knowledge that is at risk of loss, and understand its impact on organizational performance, you can prevent potential gaps from hampering future capacity.

Now we’ll explore all this in the context of facility management, operations, and maintenance teams.

Why knowledge retention matters in facilities management

Knowledge retention in facilities management isn’t a luxury—it’s an essential to help companies run efficiently and maintain a competitive advantage. Let see why.

The Cost of Losing Knowledge

Facilities management is a niche industry where the workforce needs unique skills and specialized knowledge. Most roles require at least a bachelor’s degree, while some career paths like Energy, Sustainability, and Safety management demand additional training and certifications.

On top of everything else, consider the fact that facility operations and maintenance teams possess years, possibly decades worth of technical hands-on knowledge and experience. These workers have developed an intricate familiarity with the physical workspace during their tenure, which is crucial to the success of your asset maintenance and management programs.

However, if your company doesn’t have a way to capture and preserve that knowledge, it’s limited to their minds only. When such workers retire, get promoted, transferred or leave for another company, they take that knowledge with them. This loss of expertise can quickly turn your facilities into unsafe, unhygienic and unproductive spaces.

Building organizational capacity and leveraging critical information

Retaining your O&M workforce knowledge is critical, while you still have the opportunity. With knowledge retention, information and experience moves from employees’ minds and get stored in a centralized repository or knowledge base. This way, companies can ensure that critical knowledge stays intact, even when workers leave.

One of the biggest benefits of building a knowledge repository is that new employees can be onboarded and brought up to speed much quicker. The ability to transfer knowledge significantly reduces the cost and time spent training a new workforce.

The current workforce can also access and share up-to-date information when needed without relying on old paperwork and losing valuable time sifting through files and office conversations.

Why do FM organizations fail in workforce knowledge retention

In an age of information overload, you need to ensure that only the right knowledge sticks with your organization. But driving real knowledge retention is difficult in the facility management, operations, and maintenance industry - which explains why most companies simply choose to skip the whole thing.

Here are a few reasons why companies find knowledge retention challenging:

Most organizations haven’t started or start too late

Most organizations don’t prioritize knowledge retention. At max, the knowledge retention strategy involves using exit interviews to try and capture the knowledge of key employees leaving the organization. In fact, knowledge retention should be a continuous process that begins long before you’re worried about employees leaving. The sooner you document the knowledge, the more accurate and complete it will be.

Capturing complex knowledge is difficult

It's not always possible to condense company information into brief bullet points or checklists. For workers with greater expertise, knowledge retention requires greater depth and dimension. Additionally, individual information can be found in a variety of formats, including emails, videos, audio recordings, and Q&As.

The loss is not limited to technical knowledge

When maintenance workers or engineers leave, you don’t just lose their technical expertise, but also their social prowess, in terms of the relationship they’ve built with co-workers, who they collaborate with, who they reach out to for answers, websites they visit, search patterns, etc.

Your existing FM/Maintenance software does not provide for workforce knowledge retention

The nail in the coffin. The Achilles heel of facility management organizations, and operations and maintenance teams. Your FM or CMMS analytics software isn’t built to capture, organize and share your O&M workforce knowledge for future use and to help teams make better decisions together. You’ll be wasting time looking for information that’s already been lost.

However, Xempla is designed to create a knowledge base that keeps growing with every interaction, collaboration and on-site execution your O&M teams are part of. your that’s where all the action happens.

How Xempla helps you supercharge your workforce capacity with true knowledge retention and transfer

Xempla understands the need for knowledge retention that targets not only high-level workers but also hands-on professionals like facilities managers, maintenance technicians and engineers.

You must provide for a variety of types and formats to record knowledge because it could take several different forms across the workforce. You can make sure that your business never "forgets" any important information with the correct approach and solution, keeping your staff informed and preserving your competitive edge.

Here’s how Xempla helps you do it all:

Simplifies the knowledge documentation and sharing process

O&M workers will avoid knowledge sharing if it’s complex and time-consuming. Xempla makes it easy for technicians and engineers to record observations, conversations, take notes, and more, right inside the software application.

Builds a repository (Knowledge Hub) you can fall back on

Make information, learnings, guides, manuals and resource material available on demand in a universally accessible digital repository using semantic search, and keep them handy for guiding future decisions.

Promotes continuous learning

Enable seamless collaboration within the workforce to promote collective decision making, and empower teams with the supporting analytics and data-driven insights to encourage continuous learning on the job.

Build a future-ready workforce, stay forever forward

Knowledge retention is a “critical strategic resource” and the foundation for a sustainable competitive advantage.

Effective programs for knowledge retention transfer ownership. Instead of companies exploiting individual expertise, people utilize corporate knowledge.

It's difficult to achieve that inversion.

The world today is full of challenges and uncertainties for people who work in operations, maintenance, and enterprise asset management at large. And it’s going to be like that as far as we can see. Technology, automation, and digitalization advance by leaps and bounds, yet more often than not, it’s the people who fall behind.

Predicting the future is tough. But moving ahead of time and preparing your teams with the right tools and mindset can make it easier. Software built for O&M efficiency, knowledge retention, smarter decision making, and continuous learning will help you stay forever forward.

Xempla’s decision support system for enterprise asset management is a perfect example of software that helps O&M teams with the right tools and assistance needed to make better decisions, faster. Powered by the DIIV framework, it enables you to identify inefficiencies, investigate their root cause and deliver action on the ground faster. It also augments the process of operations and maintenance for your workforce to get proactive and come up with more innovative solutions.

Ready to imagine and create the future you want?

Book a meeting with us today or get a product walkthrough to see how Xempla can benefit your organization.