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Avoiding The “Knowledge Vacuum”

A by-product of employee turnover, the term “knowledge vacuum” describes what happens when experienced or senior employees leave a company before there is someone trained to take over their role. When this happens, the employer and all of the remaining employees are often left scrambling to fill in the gaps and, depending on the industry, it can take months (or even longer) to either sufficiently train a current employee to fill the position or hire an additional employee with comparable know-how.

Denise Macik, a Client Advocate in G&A Partners’ College Station office, recently shared the following tips on how employers can avoid the knowledge vacuum in an article on

Make documenting processes an ongoing priority.

Employees who have been in the same role for years are usually so well-versed in their job functions they can perform them without ever needing to consult a manual or process guideline. They’ve also likely developed shortcuts that allow them to do their jobs more quickly and efficiently. This is a great thing for employers because it means these staff members are operating at their peak productivity levels. The problem, however, is that these process improvements and shortcuts aren’t usually recorded anywhere besides the employee’s memory.

To avoid losing all of this information, employers should consider making periodic documentation or process updates part of employees’ job descriptions, and providing standardized templates for employees to use to record the information. Doing so ensures that new employees are provided with current and accurate manuals that they can use while they learn their new positions, making for a more gradual learning curve.

Encourage collaboration and cross-training.

Employers who strive to create an environment that fosters collaboration, coworking, and cross-training usually have an easier time facilitating the transfer of knowledge from experienced to newer employees. Some companies accomplish this through formal mentoring or shadowing programs, while others focus instead on creating opportunities for employees to work on special projects with tenured employees.

Keep tabs on who might be leaving soon.

Knowing the makeup of the employee population is key to effective workforce management. First and foremost, employers should always be aware of which employees are approaching retirement and begin thinking about how they will cope with that eventuality well before the day those workers become eligible for retirement. Depending on the level of seniority an employee has within the organization, employers may want to plan even further out, using strategies like succession planning.

But retirement isn’t the only reason long-time employees leave a company, which brings us to our last strategy for avoiding a knowledge vacuum . . .

Make sure long-tenured employees feel valued.

The number one reason Americans leave their jobs is because they don’t feel appreciated by their employers. This is especially true for employees who have been with their companies for years and years. In addition to providing opportunities for employees to move up within the company, employers should make a point to recognize work anniversaries and other milestones with special incentives or celebrations.

While preparing for and preventing a knowledge vacuum may involve a significant investment of time and effort, trust us – it’s a much better option than having to start from scratch with a new employee every time a senior or skilled employee leaves your company.

Did you know? Businesses that outsource their human resources functions to a PEO (professional employer organization) like G&A Partners experience 23-32 percent lower rates of employee turnover than companies that don’t use a PEO. If you’re ready to experience the benefits of using a PEO for yourself, click here to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced business advisors.

This article was originally featured on To view the original article, click here.

3 responses to “Avoiding The “Knowledge Vacuum””

  1. Tammy F says:

    We are struggling with this right now. We cannot find a qualified person that meets our needs and at the salary range we have set (which is the correct one for our industry)

  2. Kelly says:

    We have been exercising some of these key points ” Encourage collaboration and cross-training.”
    “Keep tabs on who might be leaving soon”
    but this last one “Make sure long-tenured employees feel valued”, we have a bit of an issue I believe. Some of management seems to think it’s better to only talk to employees when something is wrong. This creates a negative feeling, while we know we’re doing well because we haven’t been called into the ” Principal’s office” we still develop a negative complex when it’s only our flaws that are pointed out.

    • G&A Partners says:

      Recognition is something most employers struggle with, particularly when it comes to creating meaningful rewards or strategies to keep long-time employees engaged, so don’t feel too bad. If you’re looking for ideas on how to develop an effective rewards plan, we’d recommend checking out the recap of one of our HR Tailgate Twitter chats, “How to Make Your Employees Feel Like Star Players.” Many of our chat participants shared what their companies are doing to combat this same issue.

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