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How to Prevent Employees from Hoarding Knowledge

How to Prevent Employees from Hoarding Knowledge

When an employee leaves your organization, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, their absence can be felt by the whole organization. An employee’s departure is often a domino effect—hiring managers are in full swing trying to fill the position, and colleagues are covering the responsibilities for that role. 

Beyond leaving their job duties behind, employees who leave an organization may be taking knowledge with them. This can often be knowledge they learned while in the role that isn’t easily transferable to the employee who takes over. While hard to prevent, employees hoarding knowledge could be detrimental to your organization’s success. 

Here’s how to spot knowledge hoarding and proactively prevent it from happening.



What Is Knowledge Hoarding?

Knowledge hoarding can be a complex concept to grasp because it isn’t always tangible. When an employee hoards knowledge, they keep information or knowledge they learned in their role to themselves. Often this is unintentional, stemming from employees learning and growing in their position and not realizing they aren’t sharing what they learn.

Hoarding knowledge can be damaging to an organization when turnover is involved. For employees who leave your organization and take knowledge with them, there often isn’t a paper trail or instructions on what they learned over time. This can be a significant setback for the new hire who steps into their role. 

Employees naturally learn skills and knowledge over time when they stay in the same role for a while. Veteran employees are always hard to replace, but when your organization considers the knowledge they take with them, it can be much harder to train a new hire.


How to Encourage Knowledge Sharing Instead of Hoarding

To combat knowledge hoarding, it’s essential to encourage the opposite—knowledge sharing. Knowledge sharing is the intentional act of distributing learned skills or pieces of information with other employees and can create an overall positive company culture where employees feel inspired to grow. 

Here are a few tips for creating an environment where sharing is encouraged and enjoyable.

  • When expecting something from your employees, it’s important to lead by example. Encourage the leaders of your company to share knowledge with their direct reports through 1:1 meetings and setting career development goals as a team. Employees will feel encouraged to share with other employees when they can look around and see a culture that thrives on it.  
  • Make sure your organization’s workplace is set up for knowledge-sharing success. Have plenty of communal spaces where employees can meet with one another, exchange ideas, and ultimately share knowledge throughout the process. These spaces encourage collaboration and can be a powerful way of forming work-life relationships. 
  • Encourage employees to share knowledge periodically, making a habit out of it. Your organization could ask employees to share something weekly in a team meeting or even take turns where you rotate employees sharing a new skill or piece of helpful knowledge with the team. Doing this more often will make employees feel more comfortable with the habit over time.
  • Sharing knowledge should be encouraged not only within teams but cross-functionally as well. If you don’t already, your organization should find ways for teams to merge and meet. Learning what other teams are working on keeps your organization on the same page and can help employees feel like valued team members being in the “know.” 

Additional Resources

You can stay informed, educated, and up-to-date with important HR topics using BerniePortal’s comprehensive resources:

  • BerniePortal Blog—a one-stop-shop for HR industry news
  • HR Glossary—featuring the most common HR terms, acronyms, and compliance
  • HR Guides—essential pillars, covering an extensive list of comprehensive HR topics
  • BernieU—free online HR courses, approved for SHRM and HRCI recertification credit
  • HR Party of One—our popular YouTube series and podcast, covering emerging HR trends and enduring HR topics


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