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Strategies for Preventing a Knowledge-Loss Crisis

When employees leave an organization, they depart with more than what they know; they also leave with critical knowledge about who they know. Thus, the departure of key people can significantly affect the relationship structure and consequent functioning of an organization. In particular, companies should be aware of the unique knowledge held by three important types of employees: "central connectors" (those who are regularly asked for help, typically because they have a high level of expertise in one or more areas), "brokers" (those who act as bridges across subgroups) and "peripheral players" (those who reside on the boundaries of a network but could still possess valuable niche expertise and outside knowledge). Departure of an employee who filled any one of these roles presents knowledge-loss risks that need to be addressed. The departure of a handful of key brokers, for example, could fracture the social network of an organization into isolated subgroups. Thus companies need to take various measures to (1) identify key knowledge vulnerabilities by virtue of both what a person knows and how that individual's departure will affect a network and (2) address specific knowledge-loss issues based on the different roles that employees play in the network.

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