Business Knowledge – Who Really Owns It?

I’ve always loved the familiar quote, “Knowledge is Power.” And, one of the things I think so many companies miss is how unmanaged the internal ‘knowledge power’ is…. and exactly what experience employees possess.

As we have all heard and hopefully recognize; the most valuable asset a company has are its employees. Even in the world of computers and algorithms written to make our jobs easier by creating sophisticated logic, the knowledge workers possess is very compelling to a company, and in many cases, should owe its success. However, I have noticed a trend whereby people believe if they hold on to what they know, they will make themselves more valuable and cannot be ‘let go’ from a company. By holding on to knowledge, we somehow feel we are securing our future. After all, so many of our jobs are heading to outsourcing companies. And, I truly believe there is no measurement to know exactly how much this untapped knowledge is hurting a company financially.

Do you know how much time is being wasted for other employees to ‘figure out’ how to do something when the knowledge is already within your current workforce?

In some cases, when a company goes to outsourcing certain functions, many companies end up realizing the mistake of not having the carnal knowledge and end up bringing the capacity back into the enterprise.

Unfortunately, by the time the mistake of outsourcing is realized, the people who had the knowledge have been let go from the company. It seems to be a cycle that can be extremely costly. When outsourcing, typically the people are only able to make a black and white decision based on scripts they are given. Without the in-depth knowledge needed to ‘think out of the box,’ they are only able to do a ‘yes or no’ type of decision-making or, what I call ‘if’ statements. ‘If’ this happens then ‘this’ is the answer.

Another threat to a company is the mishandling of bringing on new people who may not have experience as the current workforce possesses. It is critical the new workers come in and start at beginning positions to first learn from the heritage employees, and then you will have a stronger base to look for change and new suggestions of how to make things run more efficiently. So, how best can a company find the pockets of knowledge and makes people feel comfortable to share?

A lot of employees do not believe anyone understands what they do each day

  • Managers should know what each of their employees does in detail each day and be willing to perform the job themselves Employees will respect a manager more when the manager will step in and cover for them when they are out and when they are busy and are behind in their work
  • It is a great practice to have others do someone’s job when they are out because it will potentially uncover white-collar crimes
  • If an employee never takes off…. then, that should be a red flag up the pole that there is something possibly being covered up
  • Encourage people to document what they do step-by-step. Step-by-step procedures are a must when running a business
  • It is critical for a company to have cross-trained employees. And, as mentioned earlier, this is a perfect time to train new hires, and during that process, fresh ideas can begin.
  • I decided on my own to learn every single job in the department so I could better understand my job. And, I had suggestions to my manager how I felt we could eliminate some current tasks and free up people to perform more audit functions

Be prepared to find non-value details; but before you think of eliminating the task, ensure you know what happens before and after the task

  • What happens before and after your employee does what they need to do is extremely important. Efficiencies can be uncovered by knowing what happens from A to Z in an entire process
  • This research of before and after a task will cross over the department and is very necessary to know the whole picture

Hold team meetings each week

  • Go over the usual work reminder items but make sure you keep a segment that each person talks about, what I call, ‘the good, the bad and the ugly,’ of their week When people share their successes and struggles, others will naturally learn or jump in and help
  • I have seen this meeting tactic work whereby someone would talk about an issue they are having, and someone will say, “I just dealt with that with my client, and I have a PowerPoint deck that helped. I will send it to you and the rest of the team.”
  • Many times, if someone is trying to figure out functionality a client needs, there is someone on the team who has been with the company a very long time who will know the system and its capabilities that others do not know
  • Each teammate figured out the strength and weaknesses of the team and could either help or tap into a particular person’s knowledge to help each other. And, each person became a subject matter expert (SME) for individual segments of the job
  • I’ve always felt very strongly that we will never find a person who has everything but a good manager will have everything needed on one team
  • When you combine the knowledge and capabilities of each, you foster a cohesive team. You will be able to watch as people grow and cross learn from each other. It’s a beautiful experience to unfold

Manage from the top down to evaluate what positions and jobs are needed to run the business, and which are not

  • At this stage of the process, do not think about any employee in place currently and their talent. This exercise is to ensure you have the right channels in your company to run your business efficiently
  • If your Managers know the detail of jobs in their entire department, better decisions will happen as a common practice

By gaining the knowledge yourself on a detailed level as a manager and an owner, you will be able to understand where your critical pockets of knowledge are in your firm. You will be a brilliant business person who truly knows the people, and this experience will show you where the strength and weakness are in your company. You will have a workforce who feels valued and comfortable. And people will share the golden nuggets of information that makes your business so profitable.


Robin Anderson
Robin Anderson
ROBIN Anderson earned her BBA and MBA from Averett University and graduated with a 3.88 GPA. She is also a member of the Pinnacle National Honor Society and a member of the Institute of Financial Operations as well as served on the Strategic Advisory Committee for several years and has been a speaker for 4 years at the National Convention. Robin also speaks for the IOFM, AP Now and Tomorrow and Averett University. Robin volunteers her time with organizations such as the American Cancer Society, the ALS Association, and speaking for Averett University.

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  1. I’ve been in companies where there is very little to no interest in sharing knowledge. When you do, you’re heavily reprimanded for doing something so foolish. Often, people with key knowledge leaves that company. To get those people back, the company pays them two to three times more than what they made as employees.

    I think this treatment of knowledge is just a carry over of how management used to treat unskilled laborers.

    • Thank you Chris for your comments. And, you are correct. There are a lot of companies our there not taking advantage of the knowledge their employees base has, and how important they are to their business.

      With my writing, I like to share my perspective as a leader who has been in the trenches and have vowed to make the changes I can and lead by example. Let’s hope more leaders read the article and at least think about making a change for the better!! Take care, Robin

    • I feel that if companies advocated human capital practices, the financial value and impact of knowledge would be recognized and known. But many, even those that are familiar with the human capital find it difficult to valuate knowledge because it’s time consuming. I find myself saying “And, we’ll just automate that analysis, right?”

    • You are so right!! It really is very hard to figure out how to capture the knowledge people are keeping in their brains.

      That is why I like to hold team meetings so people naturally want to share to help others. Of course, a cohesive team needs to form first. Thank you so much for your feedback!!! Take care, Robin

  2. I guess I am lucky. Our company environment is one of engaged listening and everyone has a voice. Our contributions are important and have made a difference in how we run the company. I enjoyed reading your article. Thank you.

    • Thank you Larry. I am so happy to hear you work for a fantastic company that embraces employees!!! Thank you for reading my article! Take care, Robin