Preserving Team Knowledge in the Gig Economy

Do you remember your parents or grandparents staying in the same job for their entire lives? Or at least staying with the same company? Though it seems odd today, there was a time when it wasn’t uncommon for a person to begin a job with a company and retire from that same company decades later with the ubiquitous parting gift of a gold watch. Business teams work much differently now. Business moves far more rapidly than ever before, and the workforce is changing at a similar pace. In corporate America, up to 40 percent of employees are now contractors. A recent study commissioned by Upwork and the Freelancer’s Union predict that the global workforce will be more than 50 percent freelance within ten years.

Even for full-time “permanent” employees, the average tenure in a single company dropped to 4.2 years in 2016. With so many employees coming and going, and an increasing trend toward remote workers, it’s often hard for teams to maintain continuity across projects, organizations, and time. Even worse, something vital is getting lost: institutional knowledge.

What shared memory means to business teams

It doesn’t matter how big your business is. Whether you have four or 400 employees, and whether they’re with you for a few months or a few years, they all have a piece of the puzzle that keeps business humming. In the old-world style company, those puzzle pieces stuck together with the glue of tenure—people who remember what happened when you tried that “new idea” six years ago; who know where the projects from last spring are stored, what happened when we hired that agency a few years back, or what the combination to the storage facility is. Or that you even have a storage facility.

Now, it’s easier than ever to forget completed work. People move on, freelancers store work on computers that get wiped when they leave. Companies lose track of great freelancers they might have liked to continue working with, but whose contact information evaporated when the manager that hired them left. Teams can lose the narrative on projects in progress. It’s even difficult to maintain a consistent brand and voice when so many people work on it over many years. Shared memory is the lifeblood of any company, but the gig economy we’ve all come to depend upon for up-to-the-minute success can potentially cut us off at the knees. How do we get the best of both worlds?

Bypassing the chaos

Meet Nicole Hanusek. As the owner of the San Francisco-based boutique web design firm Smack Happy Designs, Nicole is only too familiar with the risks of losing institutional knowledge. Her business model relies on a remote staff of freelance designers and employees she can tap into as needed. She hired the best people she could find, without regard to their physical location. But as all good web designers know, organization is everything. She needed all of her workers to be on the same page from the moment they started. From pricing to graphics to timelines, it was crucial that any Smack Happy employee present a unified message to any client at any moment, with no room for misunderstanding or miscommunication.

Nicole created a series of business processes and templates in Evernote Business, which she and any of her team members can access from anywhere. From Evernote, she can not only manage projects and share work with clients, but she can also keep an up-to-date record of every piece of work her company does. Her team can easily find everything they need with a quick search or a set of shortcuts, so they don’t have to worry about losing work or shared knowledge. Employees may come and go with the times, but their work always stays at Nicole’s fingertips. Which is just where she needs it to be.

Learn more about how Evernote Business can organize your entire company quickly and cost-effectively »

Evernote Business and the gig economy

The gig economy is probably here to stay. So here are a few tips to help you keep your records and work streams unbreakable.

  1. Keep it all together. Select one place for storing all your company’s work, both past and ongoing. You wouldn’t store your family photo collections in thirty unrelated boxes, so why would you do that to your team’s collective knowledge? In Evernote, any document, photo, audio recording, or project from any time in your company’s history is never more than a couple of clicks away. If your team works in Google Drive, you can drop links from Google directly into Evernote to keep project docs alongside your notes. Evernote also integrates with Slack, so capturing important conversations and decisions in notes is even quicker and easier.
  2. Standardize your archives. The old saying about being condemned to repeat history if we don’t remember it holds especially true in business. Without a reliable, accessible index, you might find yourself or your employees re-doing completed work, or launching the same initiatives that were tried several years ago. Once your archives are in Evernote Business, use a consistent set of notebooks, tags, and naming conventions to make your archives easy to navigate and understand, even for the teammates you haven’t hired yet. But don’t stress over perfection: Evernote’s powerful search functionality will find any word in a document so that even if a note gets mislabeled, you can still find it instantly.
  3. Share with your team. To get the most out of your knowledge archive, be sure to share relevant notes with the people who may need them. Whether you choose to share notes with just a few members of your team or publish notebooks to the entire company, you control how, when, and where to share it. Link notes together to create an easy way to jump from one set of information to another. Or create a table of contents to index a notebook’s contents. As long as the information is in Evernote Business and shared, the work will never get lost in the shuffle. Even if employees leave, you’ll still have quick and easy access to all the work they did, anytime.

As employees, contractors, and freelancers touch the work you do, contribute to your success, and move on, your archive will grow and become more complex. Although your teammates may not stay in jobs for a lifetime anymore, your work, processes, and institutional memory can be maintained for generations to come.

Learn more about how Evernote Business can help you retain institutional memory »

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