What is Institutional Knowledge and How to Make the Best Use of it?

These days employees don’t stick with one job. If employees feel unsatisfied or underpaid at the current employment, their best resort is to move to another company that values them. Though, this step is favorable for employees but not for organizations.

Additionally, the retirement factor can’t be ignored too. As per a report by Pew Research, almost 10,000 Baby Boomers reach their retirement age every day and new employees take their positions.

Now, the question arises – How can these retired employees pass on their accumulated knowledge to the new joiners?

That’s where Institutional Knowledge helps you. If you’re wondering what Institutional knowledge is, don’t worry!

In this detailed article, we’ll take you through – What is institutional knowledge? Why is Institutional Knowledge crucial for a company’s success? And how to capture Institutional Knowledge? If these questions intrigue you, keep reading!

What is Institutional Knowledge?

Institutional knowledge points out the combination of expertise, values, work processes, strategies, experiences, information, and data possessed by employees of an organization. It consists of important information –  projects, trends, perspectives – basically everything that states an organization’s life story.

As per The International Federation of Library Association & Institution, institutional knowledge has two groups:-

  1. Tangible or definite knowledge that can be collected, kept, and passed on to new people (encompassing reports, records, documents).
  1. Intangible or indefinite knowledge that can’t be stored and is difficult to pass on (encompassing skills, personal anecdotes, and intuition-based wisdom). Often this sort of knowledge is passed on using the medium of mentoring programs, training programs, and coachings.

With the help of institutional knowledge, employees get a crystal-clear understanding of an organization’s operations and can make well-informed decisions when needed.

Let’s take an example for better understanding- 

Think about your current job based on-

  1. Do you deal with an outsider, in the work environment, on behalf of your organization?
  2. Do you prefer any unwritten workflow due to your experience which has shown that it helps to avoid issues with stakeholders and customers?
  3. Do you know anything that only a few subordinates or fellow mates could understand?

Responses to these example situations point out the institutional knowledge you have. Now, think for once how many coworkers in your company might have similar collected knowledge.

Don’t you think all this knowledge is worth preserving?

Institutional Knowledge Definition

To define Institutional knowledge, we can say it is the information that only a few employees possess about an organization’s significant relationships and operations.

It essentially involves the frameworks that help the company function effectively and efficiently.

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Why is Institutional Knowledge Crucial for a Company’s Success?

Businesses spend plenty of resources and time developing their knowledge base and capability. Although some of it gets converted into policies and procedures, most of it stays in the heart and mind of experts and managers. With time, a major chunk of this institutional knowledge moves away with retirees or when an employee takes on new jobs.

  • The developed knowledge degrades when a new chairman or senior executive proposes a new/different agenda that doesn’t match with earlier knowledge or challenge it.

    Not to mention knowledge disappears faster when an organization undergoes major changes like merger or amalgamation, due to which there’s a reshuffle of current employees.

  • Also, no organization wants their institutional knowledge to get lost when employees retire or join other jobs. Even other changes like acquisitions, promotions can cause knowledge to drift away in the translation and transition.

Today all big organizations experience these dynamics. As a result, the people-centric, informal institutional knowledge which is crucial for the effectiveness of an organization has a shorter existence.

It is rightly said if you don’t pay attention to this, you’ll be stuck with employees who only know the basic things and don’t possess any institutional knowledge.

That’s why it is important to record institutional knowledge for a company’s success.

  • This documented knowledge serves as principal support and guidepost for creating new and better products, providing top-notch customer service, and enhancing business strategies for future growth. 
  • It even assists you in rectifying strategies when you retrospect and find the implemented strategies didn’t work as intended. 
  • Proper documentation and knowledge sharing can help an organization in evading mishaps and confusion. For instance, with high employee turnovers, an organization loses the valuable expertise of its ex-employees which could hamper its work.

It’s true when an organization doesn’t record its institutional knowledge, unexpected employee turnover disturbs its working, operations, and growth severely.

However, do you know not documenting institutional knowledge can also lead to inefficiency on normal days?

Ward off these consequences by motivating employees to record their knowledge on their way, or at the minimum, document their experiences before shifting to another position/job.

How to Capture and Preserve Institutional Knowledge?

When an organization’s employees stay on for long, they accumulate institutional knowledge. In simple language, they understand the systems, processes, and relationships that help a company to work effectively.

The amalgamation of insider expertise and loyalty plays a key role in improving employee participation, boosting employee retention, and reducing employee turnover.

But, when an employee leaves an organization, a significant amount of relevant insights might get lost.

That’s why capturing and preserving institutional knowledge is non-negotiable.

With proper strategy and devotion, you can capture and prevent the loss of institutional knowledge. This will enhance the working of your company and dodge some of the negative aspects of employee turnover.

Here are five actionable strategies that fend off institutional knowledge loss –

  1. Make use of an effective knowledge base management tool

    Use technology for developing a process to capture and prevent the loss of institutional knowledge. You can record institutional knowledge with a centralized platform like CloudTutorial. It’s an all-rounder platform to document your organization’s processes, terms, procedures, working, and background.

    Preferably, this amazing collaborative tool is accessible throughout an organization and you have the option to update the information timely. Using this platform, employers can easily create an insightful knowledge base for providing key information to their workers/employees.

    • CloudTutorial is an evolving tool of valuable information that is reachable to new employees during the onboarding process. 
    • This will not only save lots of time for an organization in the orientation process but also help in averting any confusion whatsoever. 
    • An employee can access the knowledge base created on CloudTutorial at any time. 
    • Your company can use this platform to document its institutional knowledge so that information and communication are seamlessly linked together.

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  2. Succession planning

    It’s known that many organizations have a properly made organizational chart but the problem is that they fail to do the succession planning/career development on time.

    The important aspect of succession plans is that they acknowledge retirements.

    And have a proper plan in place for knowledge retention/ preserving the knowledge that’s required for the smooth working of an organization despite any staffing and leadership change.

    Succession planning must have backups and substitutes for all vital aspects of responsibility.

    Here, the ultimate goal is to create multiple (human) resources that possess relevant knowledge for an organization’s operations.

    Remember, it’s a big no-no that one person holds all the knowledge, as it can later turn into a potential threat for the organization.

  3. Keeping up-to-date standard operating procedures

    Once succession planning is done, you should prioritize maintaining up-to-date standard operating procedures to capture and prevent the loss of valuable institutional knowledge.

    Standard operating procedures are documents that keep on expanding.

    These documents pinpoint workflows and systems your workforce/team members use to execute the tasks. In the best-case scenario, these procedures should be maintained for every role in your company.

    Indeed it takes quite a lot of effort to collect Standard Operating Procedures. So, start with the areas as per the level of importance.

    When Standard Operating Procedure gets recorded, institutional knowledge turns into the official procedure and a helpful go-to guide for existing as well as new employees.

  4. Make documentation key aspect of off-boarding

    This strategy can be utilized when you don’t want to lose valuable information with the workforce/ employees leaving your organization. Simply ask those employees to document and arrange their Standard Operating Procedures before moving out.

    This can comprise their routine tasks, best practices, or deep insights to work with a certain client.

    Maintaining documentation at the time of off-boarding can play an integral part in the frictionless working of an organization. Though this looks trivial, in the long run, it can prove to be super useful.

  5. Go for a video series

    Generally, people like to consume information that is easy to grasp. And one way to do that is by making a video series on relevant topics rather than text-based documentation. Launch quick visuals to share institutional information with your employees.

    Not only are videos easy to consume but also are easy to create. For instance, the U.S. Army’s engineering and support center uses Snagit, a tool for screen recording to come up with crisp video tutorials swiftly.


Institutional memory definition is simple. It means a collective set of knowledge, concepts, facts, and experience that individuals possess. In other words, it is the amassed and stored knowledge within a company.

Institutional knowledge management refers to the process of creating, using, managing, and sharing the information and knowledge of an organization. It is a multidisciplinary approach formed to achieve organizational goals and objectives by utilizing institutional knowledge in the best possible way.

The best method to prevent the loss of institutional knowledge is by incorporating a knowledge base management tool like the CloudTutorial. It’s a one-stop destination to create a comprehensive knowledge base and document an organization’s institutional knowledge. CloudTutorial saves organizations’ a lot of costs, time, and effort and makes new employees’ lives easier.


Does your organization focus on institutional knowledge? If yes, that’s great. If not, you’re missing out on something huge. By focusing on preserving relevant knowledge and incorporating smart solutions like CloudTutorial, you can reap the benefits easily while minimizing any potential risks.

Institutional knowledge has the potential to transform an organization’s future. Not all organizations need to hire a Chief Memory Officer/managers. Just take relevant steps to document and preserve your institutional knowledge to ensure that your company is functioning effectively and efficiently.

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