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Mind Drain: A Catalyst For L&D

Brain Drain: A Catalyst for L&D

Brain drain is a term that emerged in the 1960s when Britain saw a mass exodus of its scientists to the United States. Nowadays, perhaps the more politically correct term “brain mobility” is when it comes to the global circulation of knowledge, but whether you are talking about countries or companies, you have to admit that if knowledge leaves your borders or buildings, you do not win.

All companies are well aware of this due to the costs and risks associated with human capital flight. The UK has an average annual turnover rate of 15%, according to global employment company Monster. Google “employee churn” and you will face many grim realities that have involved significant downturns in business performance due not only to the loss of skilled workers, but also to the knowledge of workplace learning they are daily for apply their work.

Don’t worry, you are not alone. Even the IBMs, Microsoft, and Apples of the world struggle to retain their most valuable groups of employees. The power lies in what you do about it, and luckily, learning platforms like Fuse are perfectly positioned to help. Read on to learn how we ensure the knowledge lives on long after valued employees have passed.

Solving the knowledge brain drain puzzle

Many learning platforms use course-based learning environments designed to enable formal learning that usually consists of explicit knowledge – the content of encyclopedias, textbooks, and SOP manuals.

In order to scale their offerings, many companies buy extensive libraries with explicit knowledge. The thing is, if you are only using explicit knowledge to learn, brain drain can be the least of your problems. This knowledge often lacks the organizational context, which is critical to understanding and building skills more quickly.

Fuse was originally designed as a social learning platform, so we’ve always viewed tacit knowledge from experts as the most valuable knowledge you can have because it’s contextually relevant. It’s from an expert who understands the context of your environment. Tacit knowledge can be defined as intuitive knowledge and expertise based on context, experience, practice and values.

It’s one of the fundamental elements that make Fuse so effective. However, the classic problem with tacit knowledge is that it tends to sit in people’s minds. And when people leave a company, this knowledge belongs to them too. However, it is not just fortunate that we have overcome this problem through years of applied practice in the field of streamlined learning and a content methodology that really helps to fix the knowledge loss across the organization.

Backup: Getting the best out of people

Fuse becomes extremely valuable in its ability as a tool to extract various types of knowledge from people in order to codify and retain it. Don’t worry, it’s not about science fiction. We are just giving users the tools to help them add knowledge to the platform in a very simple and powerful way.

It doesn’t have to be traditional content like videos or articles or PowerPoint presentations. This can be as simple as the content of an expert who contributes to conversations and in this way brings in his tacit knowledge. Some great conversations are happening in Fuse and anyone can easily consume and learn from them. Experts can bring their own thoughts on best practices or challenging conventions to advance collective thinking.

We also use techniques that people use on social media to create an article very quickly, or to quickly record yourself and explain a process. It’s about getting the implicit knowledge quickly and easily from the experts.

It is vastly different from what you see with traditional L&D platforms that limit themselves to explicit knowledge, neglect implicit knowledge, and have significant problems with scaling. The problem is often rooted in the fact that they are still clinging to a traditional learning mentality that is very control-based in their approach. In order to easily scale the amount of knowledge and let the learning and tacit knowledge flow continuously in a company, L&D has to let go of this.

If we focus on the free flow of tacit knowledge, bringing it onto a platform cannot be a three month process. L&D cannot be the goalkeeper for all knowledge. Companies need to give back more control to the crowd and let users upload their content. It’s about allowing the crowd to create more content and then being able to pick and curate the best of the crowd and bring that back into the curated experiences.

Curation: the panacea?

When we talk about curated experiences, there are a number of things that help further embed tacit knowledge in all organizations. However, it is most effective when we teach our customers how to take tacit knowledge to the next level using our content methodology.

Many of those with the highest engagement rates turn tacit knowledge into compelling videos that speak directly to people, making the learning much easier to understand. You can read more about the importance of curation here.

The most important point is that when you strike the right balance, you allow users to create user generated content and transfer that tacit knowledge to the platform and get users to access, share and keep it.

Crawling, running and walking with tacit knowledge

We’re not going to pretend the Tacit Knowledge Waterfall and Content Curation Machine can be turned on to work right away. You cannot magically create culture. You need to work with the pockets of an organization that understands it best first and develop a core approach to having an impactful learning experience, as well as programs that you can realistically create.

We do this by helping our customers by creating value cards that focus on the problems they are trying to solve and what the success looks like for their learning experience. Our expertise is in showing companies that there are different, better, and more engaging ways to learn and that you can start to scale as you move from program to program.

Ultimately, tacit knowledge is the real key to success in the struggle to retain expert knowledge in a company. However, companies need to better leverage their experts to achieve this. They are the ones who are on the cutting edge and they are the ones who will stay updated and educate everyone.

A long-term approach to maintaining tacit knowledge despite the natural transitory nature of a workforce will rely on the ease of contributing and accessing knowledge. it has to become a habit. In this case, organizations may be less prone to brain drain and have a learning culture that is both effective and highly scalable.

Are you struggling to develop a learner-centered learning strategy and want to better understand what learners need from learning programs to be engaged and successful? Read our latest research paper, “Learner Engagement and Performance: From Correlation to Cause,” produced in collaboration with Brandon Hall.


Used by over 150 progressive organizations worldwide – including Hilti, Vodafone, Panasonic, Scandic, and Avon – Fuse ensures active engagement for deeper learning experiences that improve employee performance.

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