Why Tribal Knowledge is Holding Your Business Back and What You Can Do About It

August 16, 2021
Elevators, General, HVAC
3 min read

For many field service companies, knowledge about products, processes and customers is not written down — it is in their technicians’ heads. This is known as “tribal knowledge.” Your service technicians’ tribal knowledge is one of their most valuable assets in the field. Their experience and expertise provides value to your clients. However, tribal knowledge can actually be holding your business back.

Throughout a technician’s career, you invest in them through training, support, and other learning opportunities to help them continuously improve and grow their skill sets. But what happens when a technician chooses to leave or retire? You may be losing a lot more than just a great team member if you don’t have a mechanism to record and keep the decades of tribal knowledge they’ve acquired over their career.

What Exactly is Tribal Knowledge?

Tribal knowledge is all about the methods, techniques, practices, products, and customers that only a few of your most experienced or longest-serving staff are familiar with. This knowledge is rarely written down and is mostly held in the heads of a select few.

The Tribal Knowledge Guru

Companies need to identify the “tribal knowledge gurus” within their company. These individuals create an issue where valuable information is being concentrated in the hands of just one knowledgeable key staff. As a result, when that person leaves, all of that expertise may be lost with him. The goal is to “download” the information from the gurus’ brains, and document it, before it walks out the door to another company or with a retired guru. This type of tribal knowledge could be a roadblock to proper documentation and automation, as well as the company’s development.

Closing the Tribal Knowledge Gap

Realizing there is a knowledge gap is the first step in working towards closing it:

  • Bridge the knowledge gap by documenting and incorporating that information into an ongoing training program that will enable your new hires get up to speed quickly and work successfully in the field.

Identify your most competent and experienced personnel and ask them to share their wisdom, noting any tribal information worth preserving:

  • Many of those seasoned workers have a wealth of untapped information. The most crucial thing is to obtain the data before it is too late.

Utilizing a connected field service software to capture, document, share and store technician’s information is a major milestone in combatting tribal knowledge:

  • When you only have a select few key individuals with tribal knowledge that is inaccessible by others, your business relies solely on those individuals and is left vulnerable and exposed when they leave.

Knowledge management technologies like FIELDBOSS are being used by top-performing organizations to not only gather insights on when a work order is closed, but also to provide a window into the full customer-to-field service technician interaction.

This insight will not only ensure that best practices and tribal knowledge can be passed down to the next generation of field technicians, but it also allows other functions of the business to see how valuable the field team is.

Contact FIELDBOSS if you would like to learn how an end-to-end field service management software can help bridge the tribal knowledge gap and help your company run as one interconnected unit.