by B. Leach | Nov. 11, 2015 | 7 Min Read

Combat Brain Drain with a Social Learning Platform

knowledge transfer from one person to another

27,000. That’s the number of years of expertise one organization stands to lose as its next wave of Baby Boomers retire, according to the Harvard Business Review. Most organizations know a large portion of their employees is up for retirement. But, few realize how much historical knowledge and skills will also “retire” as Baby Boomers exit the workforce. The areas where organizations will feel the most pain? HBR points to four: relationships, reputation, rework, and regeneration. Retirement happens. But knowledge gaps and business setbacks don’t have to. By using a social learning platform, you can easily capture, save, and share valuable information and protect your organization from the side effects of brain drain when it comes to relationships, reputation, rework, and regeneration.


Without context, a retiree’s Rolodex or Outlook address book is a pretty lifeless collection of names, phone numbers, and emails. A social learning platform may not give background on every point of contact (nor should it), but it can help new employees successfully navigate and manage relationships with customers and partners. By using community forums and other built-in collaboration tools, you can capture and share best practices for relationship management. This is what India-based Asian Paints does. Their sales team uses social learning tools to share best practices and innovative ways of supporting dealers. In turn, new team members draw on these past experiences to help them address situations they face in the present. In addition to external relationships, a social learning platform can also enhance internal relationship building and knowledge management efforts. For example, newer or less experienced hires might not know that Nicole, who’s been here 30 years, is the go-to person for help with overcoming objections. With special designations and the ability to “follow” an expert in a social learning platform, it can be easier to connect with and learn from peers.


Documenting and sharing best practices, connecting with and learning from internal experts—ultimately, these things help new team members get up to speed faster and feel more comfortable and confident in their capabilities, which will help protect your brand’s reputation from the crippling blows of, “I don’t know. I’m new here.”


“When the incoming successor has to spend time understanding product lines or critical processes, learning informal norms and ways to get things done, figuring out how organizational units interact—that’s all time-consuming, wasteful rework,” HBR also shares. Fortunately, a social learning platform can help reduce rework and increase productivity; according to research from IBM, social technology can increase efficiency up to 25%. A social learning platform marries formal and informal learning; employees can take courses to learn core competencies (e.g., how to use a key software program) but also comment on and share lessons learned outside of the instruction manual to help others use the tool more effectively. Furthermore, by combining training with communication and collaboration tools, a social learning platform cuts down on having to use multiple tools to search for and find answers. People have one central place to get what they need to do their work.


Finally, incumbent knowledge plus social and collaboration tools can be the formula for innovation and business growth. For example, through its social learning tools, TD Bank uncovered knowledge that enabled them to improve its business processes. Cemex, a international cement maker, leveraged the expertise of current employees (by way of social tools) to launch its first global brand of cement—and did so in a third of the estimated time. A social learning platform is an essential piece of your knowledge management and retention efforts. Through its built-in collaboration and communication tools, it can help you protect and share the expertise and skills that’ll help new and future team manage relationships successfully; protect your brand; work more efficiently; and spur innovation and growth.

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