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Knowledge Retention

Updated: July 11, 2024

What is knowledge retention?

Knowledge retention means keeping and remembering important information and skills.

Businesses need to preserve what employees know before they leave. Companies save key information, train new staff, and help employees share knowledge.

Good knowledge retention helps businesses run better. It prevents the loss of important skills and lets employees build on what they already know. This leads to better work and new ideas, and employees don’t have to learn from scratch each time.

Companies use tools like knowledge systems and talent management programs to maintain knowledge. These help to save and share important information across the company. 

Furthermore, 7 in 10 people say that learning helps them feel more connected to their organization, making knowledge retention even more appealing.

Why is knowledge retention important?

Knowledge is important because it helps businesses run smoothly and make better decisions. When people leave a job, they take their know-how with them, which can cause problems, like things not working right or decisions not being as good. 

Businesses can avoid these issues by holding onto knowledge. Considering the average employee tenure is just 2.8 years for workers aged 25 to 34, it’s vital to have a plan in place.

Holding onto knowledge helps bosses make smarter choices. They can look back at what’s happened before and use that to figure out what to do next. This can make problem-solving easier and ensure businesses’ long-term success.

In short, holding onto what people know is key for businesses to work well and make good decisions.

What are the goals of knowledge retention?

A company will likely already know why it needs to retain knowledge, but keeping goals front and center will help the project become a success.

There are business objectives to be aware of, such as keeping important resources and staying competitive.

Operational goals and strategic aims, such as sharing knowledge and improving over time, are important.

Let’s take a closer look at the goals of knowledge retention.

Business objectives

  • Keep what’s important: Ensure valuable knowledge isn’t lost during organizational changes and maintain a strong foundation of expertise and information.
  • Avoid problems: Prevent issues that can arise when employees leave or when situations change. Continuously mitigate potential disruptions.
  • Stay competitive: Maintain a competitive edge over other companies by leveraging knowledge effectively.
  • Come up with new ideas: Use existing knowledge to inspire innovative ways to improve processes and operations.

Operational goals

  • Share knowledge: Facilitate knowledge sharing among employees during periods of change. Encourage learning and collaboration.
  • Write things down: Develop comprehensive guides and documentation to preserve procedural knowledge.
  • Teach people: Provide thorough training to ensure all employees are proficient in their roles.
  • Work together: Enhance communication and collaboration within teams to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

Strategic aims

  • Be flexible: Foster an adaptable environment that quickly responds to changes and embraces new opportunities.
  • Keep good people: Retain talented employees by creating a supportive and engaging workplace.
  • Get better all the time: Continuously improve by utilizing existing knowledge to refine processes and generate new ideas.
  • Be ready for the future: Prepare for future challenges and opportunities by building a resilient and forward-thinking organization.

Who’s involved in knowledge retention?

When a company works to retain knowledge, it may involve several groups of people who could work for the company or outside of it.

For example, HR may be involved internally in creating training programs. Meanwhile, a technology vendor may sell the company a product that helps keep knowledge safe.

Here’s an overview of the internal and external stakeholders who will typically be involved.

Internal stakeholders

  • Executive leaders: Set the vision and prioritize knowledge retention during changes.
  • Human resources personnel: Create training programs and ensure employee knowledge is shared.
  • IT specialists: Set up and maintain technology for capturing and storing knowledge.
  • Department heads: Ensure their teams document and share important knowledge.
  • Employees: Share their knowledge and use resources to do their jobs well.

External stakeholders

  • Consultants: Advise on setting up good knowledge retention practices.
  • Technology vendors: Provide tools for capturing, storing, and sharing knowledge.
  • Regulatory authorities: Ensure companies follow laws about managing data and knowledge.
  • Training providers: Offer programs to help employees learn and remember knowledge.

What is required for knowledge retention success?

Business leaders must consider several factors to keep valuable knowledge within the company.

For example, they need to have a clear plan and ensure that employees agree to share their knowledge with the company.

Read on to find out what is required for knowledge retention success.

Strategic planning

Craft a comprehensive plan for retaining and disseminating knowledge within the organization. Identify critical knowledge areas and establish clear goals. Develop a strategy to capture, store, and share knowledge across teams and departments.

User engagement and participation

Ensure employees’ active engagement and participation in knowledge-sharing initiatives. Provide thorough training, ongoing support, and access to suitable tools. Foster a collaborative culture that encourages employees to contribute and utilize shared knowledge effectively.

Technology and tools

Utilize appropriate technology solutions to facilitate knowledge retention and sharing. Select user-friendly systems that seamlessly integrate with existing processes. Regularly assess and update tools to align with the organization’s evolving needs and objectives.

Why do knowledge retention projects fail?

If the requirements above are not considered, it is easy for knowledge retention projects to fail. 

Planning is important to maintain a good knowledge database. Employees who don’t understand how to share knowledge are less likely to do so.

You can discover an overview of the reasons why knowledge retention projects fail below:

Absence of a knowledge-sharing culture

Without a culture that values and promotes knowledge sharing, employees may be reluctant to share their expertise. Organizations need to create an environment where knowledge sharing is encouraged and rewarded, fostering a sense of community and collaboration.

Leadership apathy

When leadership does not prioritize or visibly support knowledge retention initiatives, employees are less likely to participate. Leaders must actively champion these projects, demonstrating their importance through consistent communication and resource allocation.

Inadequate recognition and incentives

Failing to recognize and reward employees for their contributions to knowledge retention can lead to disengagement. Implementing a system that acknowledges and rewards efforts in sharing and preserving knowledge can motivate employees to participate actively.

Lack of integration with daily workflows

Knowledge retention tools and processes that are not integrated into employees’ daily workflows can become burdensome and are often neglected. Ensuring that knowledge sharing is seamlessly embedded in regular work activities increases its adoption and effectiveness.

Use cases for knowledge retention

Companies of all shapes and sizes will have plans to retain knowledge. Whether they are retail organizations or the manufacturing industry, it is important for everyone.

However, it can be tough to understand how knowledge retention works in daily life. That’s why we have given three examples to show how keeping such information safe can be incredibly valuable. 

Customer service training for a retail company 


A retail company needs to train new customer service representatives quickly and well.


They created an online training program with videos, manuals, and FAQs. They also established a place where experienced staff can share tips and best practices.


New hires can learn fast and access helpful information easily, making them better at their jobs and keeping customers happy.

Product development for a manufacturing company


A manufacturing company wants to keep the knowledge of retiring engineers for future product development.


They record and store detailed process documents, design notes, and interviews with senior engineers. They also pair new engineers with retiring ones for mentoring.


The company keeps important engineering knowledge, helping new engineers make products better and faster.

Sales strategy for a pharmaceutical company


A pharmaceutical company must ensure sales strategies are the same in different regions.


They create a database with sales strategies, successful case studies, and CRM insights that sales teams can use and add to.


Sales teams in all regions can use proven strategies to learn from each other and make more money.

People also ask

What causes poor knowledge retention?

Poor knowledge retention can be caused by factors such as lack of engagement, insufficient reinforcement or practice, ineffective teaching methods, cognitive overload, and distractions. Additionally, inadequate sleep, stress, and a lack of relevance or interest in the material can also contribute to poor retention.

What does learning retention mean?

Learning retention refers to the ability to retain and recall information or skills over time. It measures how well knowledge is maintained and can be effectively used after initial learning has occurred.

What is an example of knowledge retention?

An example of knowledge retention is a student being able to recall and apply mathematical formulas learned in a previous semester to solve new problems in a current class. Another example is an employee remembering and using a software tool learned during training sessions to complete tasks efficiently.

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