Imagine what would happen if a renowned restaurant's secret recipe was known only to the master chef? If the chef is unavailable, the restaurant's signature dish cannot be prepared. Customers who visited the restaurant specifically for that dish will be frustrated and disappointed. If it continues, trust in the company declines, previously loyal customers will go elsewhere, and revenue will suffer.
This dynamic actually happens quite frequently in companies when vast amounts of key information gets concentrated in one or two individuals. It can be a common occurrence when organizations grow and change over time. Employees who have been there the longest and/or have specialized skills become valuable repositories of information gleaned through the company’s numerous iterations.
We’re talking about the folks who can provide answers that no one else can either because of their longevity with the company or their specialized knowledge – and often because of both. These employees and the cache of information they possess become essential to the smooth functioning of the company and in many ways act as the glue that holds things together. They are ‘know-it-alls’ in the best sense of the phrase and companies come to depend on them. Often to a dangerous degree.
Concentrating so much valuable company knowledge in the heads of just one or two individuals puts the company in a precarious situation in a few ways.
When there is an unhealthy reliance on the resident expert, company operations become bottlenecked as employees wait to hear back from them with the information they need to move forward with their tasks. This is highly inefficient.
Not only do company operations suffer but the resident expert can as well. Often the knowledgeable employee is so busy answering everyone’s questions that they don’t have time to do their own work. This puts them at risk for burnout as their role in the company expands to meet all these demands.
If these "know-it-alls" leave, the knowledge gap can impact operations. If the resident expert is unable to work or leaves the company there is a gaping hole in the organization. Surviving employees are left to guess about what to do. Vital company information is forever lost and operational chaos ensues.
These ramifications eventually trickle down to the customer experience. Rather than rely on one or two people to be the stewards of important company information, organizations need to make concentrated efforts to disperse knowledge across teams. This ensures continuity, smooth operations and reduces vulnerability.
Check out our next blog for tips on how to do this.