What Is Institutional Knowledge? Definition and Importance

Institutional knowledge, also known as institutional memory, is the collective understanding and ability of an organization’s workforce. There are several forms of institutional knowledge. Some is intentional knowledge developed through systematic training in the ways of the organization.

Institutional knowledge is an essential component of any successful company or organization. It is the collective understanding and experience of each team member, combined with the history and traditions of the organization, that make up the institutional knowledge. This knowledge is often hard to come by and can take time to accumulate, but it is invaluable for any business. It allows a company to make informed decisions, respond quickly to challenges, and remain competitive in the market. By understanding and leveraging the knowledge of their team, organizations can remain agile and effective for years to come. As a result, it is important for organizations to understand the importance of institutional knowledge, recognize it as a strategic asset, and create an environment that values and encourages it. This blog post will discuss the importance of institutional knowledge, explain how to create an environment that fosters it, and provide tips on how to keep it up to date.

Institutional Knowledge – Part 1

Why is institutional knowledge important?

Institutional knowledge is significant because it equips staff with the understanding needed to perform their responsibilities. Intangible institutional knowledge is particularly valuable because it frequently contains a wealth of guidance that enables people to adapt to circumstances that would otherwise be impossible to codify. When this information is accessible at work, a company is more likely to benefit from the following benefits:

Improved retention

The capacity of an organization to retain its employees is known as retention. By providing staff with the knowledge and instruction necessary to ensure their success and foster engagement, institutions can increase employee retention. Employees who know how to do their jobs efficiently spend less time on frustrating tasks like finding necessary information. Instead, they can concentrate on a task, finish it successfully, and possibly receive praise for their ability. Access to both tangible and intangible sources of institutional knowledge can make it easier for them to obtain the desired information should they need it to complete a task.

Greater efficiency

A productive workforce can produce work quickly and affordably. Efficiency is enhanced by institutional knowledge because it makes information available to the workforce. Employees may have to wait a long time for information to be created or to reach them without this knowledge. In contrast, if an employee knows where to look for pertinent documents or who to consult for advice, they can find the information they need quickly. As a result, delays are less frequent and less significant, which increases the likelihood that projects will be finished on schedule and on budget.

What is institutional knowledge?

Institutional knowledge, also referred to as institutional memory, refers to the workforce’s collective wisdom and skill. There are several forms of institutional knowledge. Some of it is deliberate knowledge developed through deliberate instruction in organizational practices. It can also develop naturally with time and exposure to various workplace scenarios, or it can come from the person being atypical of or intuitive of them. In light of this, institutional knowledge can be broadly divided into two categories:

Because it comes from individual members, intangible knowledge can be lost by an organization when employees part ways. For instance, a 10-year veteran of a company is likely to have a great deal of knowledge about their position. If they choose to accept a job offer elsewhere, they will take that knowledge with them unless they share it with another employee or record it in an easily accessible, reproducible form beforehand.

How to use institutional knowledge in the workplace

The following is a method for keeping and applying institutional knowledge in the workplace:

1. Create a culture of collaboration

A collaborative work environment is one that encourages active teamwork and gives team members and members of other teams the chance to collaborate to accomplish organizational goals. A collaborative culture is based on the notion that bringing together various skill sets and mindsets can help to fill in any member’s competency gaps, resulting in increased effectiveness and quality. Similar to the concept behind institutional knowledge, it is believed that employees can obtain the knowledge they need to perform their jobs effectively from both tangible and intangible sources of knowledge.

Train managers to appreciate the value of collaborative projects, encourage collaboration among team members, and maximize outcomes through careful employee groupings in order to foster a culture of collaboration in your company. The workforce could also benefit from receiving instruction from outside trainers or experts about implementation strategies and the value of acknowledging the value of diverse ideas.

2. Create standard operating procedures

A standard operating procedure, or SOP for short, is a list of instructions for carrying out a frequent or routine task within an organization. Its an example of a tangible source of institutional knowledge. It relates to a routine and distinctive operation that the organization’s members must comprehend. By standardizing the process and putting it in writing, an organization can reduce the time and costs associated with training new employees in it and keep the information provided consistent. Additionally, it enables current workers to make use of it as needed.

To begin, identify standardizable operations within the organization. Operations with few to no variables are the best for this. For instance, it is simple to standardize file naming practices because they are unlikely to have any practical benefit. After you’ve identified these operations, schedule meetings with and among participants who can offer insightful feedback on standardization. Decide what you want each SOP to accomplish, how you’ll measure success, and who will be best able to record it.

3. Focus on retention

Employee turnover for better opportunities accounts for a large portion of the loss of institutional knowledge. Focus on implementing strategies to increase retention in order to prevent employee turnover and preserve institutional knowledge. Here are some methods to consider:

4. Establish a mentoring program

By giving new hires access to an experienced employee, a mentoring program assists with the integration of new employees into an organization. By making its transfer to others easier, this can aid in the preservation and utilization of institutional knowledge. Younger coworkers can benefit from the experience of a veteran member who can use it to offer guidance and wisdom, ensuring that knowledge is passed on even after the veteran member has left. Mentoring programs can help younger members feel supported, which can help retention and knowledge preservation.

5. Promote phased retirement

Retirement is another reason organizations experience loss of institutional knowledge. To lessen or avoid loss, consider a phased retirement process. Phased retirement is based on the idea that someone should retire gradually rather than all at once. Retaining them in a reduced or contracted capacity enables the organization to continue using their expertise and enables the retiree to implement knowledge transfer to other team members.


How do you use institutional knowledge in a sentence?

While there is not a single approach to saving institutional knowledge, essential ways to consider include:
  1. Knowledge management. …
  2. Succession planning. …
  3. Subject matter experts. …
  4. Build a culture of learning and sharing. …
  5. Create clear and transparent communication channels.

Why institutional memory is important?

However, there are three major types of institutional knowledge, and two of them aren’t so easy to document:
  • Explicit knowledge. This type of information can be discovered by reading documents, manuals, or reports.
  • Implicit knowledge. …
  • Tacit knowledge.

How do you define knowledge that would apply to your organization institution?

How Can Companies Document Institutional Knowledge?
  1. Use an internal wiki. …
  2. Launch a video series. …
  3. Make documentation part of offboarding. …
  4. Create mentorship programs. …
  5. Build new forms of training. …
  6. Incentivize employees to learn.

What is institutional memory in government?

Sentence examples for institutional knowledge from inspiring English sources. He has great institutional knowledge. When senior staff members leave, institutional knowledge leaves with them. But Carter understood that he could access institutional knowledge.

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