If only a few people in your business hold important knowledge or skills, there is a danger that these will be lost if they leave or retire. Even a short period of unexpected absence, eg due to illness or bereavement, could cause problems if knowledge has not been shared.
Build a knowledge sharing culture
You should try to build a culture in which knowledge is valued and shared across your business.
Consider the best ways of sharing new ideas and information with your staff. You may already have regular meetings when you can brief employees and ask them to share ideas and best practice.
Consider holding innovation workshops or brainstorming sessions at which staff are given the freedom and encouragement to think of ways in which the business could improve.
It can also be a good idea to create a knowledge bank containing useful information and instructions on how to carry out key tasks. Putting this on an intranet is ideal as it will encourage staff to post news or suggestions.
You may decide to appoint a senior manager as knowledge champion to ensure that knowledge is managed and channelled properly.
Protect and exploit your knowledge
As part of your knowledge management, you should also make sure that any intellectual property that your business holds is protected. This means that you have the right to stop competitors from copying it - and also allows you to profit by licensing your business' knowledge. See protecting intellectual property.
Protecting and exploiting your knowledge base will be more effective if you develop efficient systems for storing and retrieving information. Your files - whether stored digitally or on paper - contain knowledge that you can use to improve your business.
Keep knowledge confidential
Your employment policies play a central role in keeping your knowledge confidential. For example, you might get staff to sign non-disclosure agreements when they join the business. This ensures that they understand the importance of confidentiality from day one.
Employment contracts can be written to reasonably limit your employees' freedom to leave and go to work immediately for one of your rivals (restraint of trade clauses) or set up a competing business to yours in the vicinity (restrictive covenants).
Incentives and training
Remember that offering staff incentives to come up with suggestions for how the business can be improved is often an effective way of getting them to use and share knowledge. See implement staff incentive schemes.
Don't forget the importance of training in spreading key knowledge, skills and best practice across your business.