Have you ever thought about what to do when the star employee who’s been with you for over five years hands in their notice? Or when your company experiences rapid growth and has to hire and train an entire workforce?
As scary as this sounds, it’s a possibility.
Research indicates the annual high-performance turnover rate on average is 3%. People also don’t stay in their roles for long—salaried and wage workers stay with their current employer for only 4.1 years.
Let’s not forget retirement. According to Pew Research Center, 28.6 million Baby Boomers—those born between 1946 and 1964—retired in the third quarter of 2020.
If you want to avoid a knowledge-related crisis at your company, you need to formalize a knowledge transfer process right away. The good news is it doesn’t have to be complicated: a solid, step-by-step strategy is all you need to collect and transfer knowledge to those who need it.
What Is Knowledge Transfer… and What It Is Not
Knowledge transfer is a methodical process by which experienced personnel share their knowledge, skills, and processes with co-workers for effective operations and staff improvement.
With a strong knowledge transfer plan in place, you can structure, store, and distribute knowledge to anyone who can benefit from it—and minimize risks associated with loss of talent and knowledge.
Knowledge transfer is more than just simple communication, though. It also involves transferring ideas, behaviors, tasks, tools, documents, and so much more.
That said, knowledge transfer is not the same as instructor-led training or succession planning.
Classroom training helps develop employee skills, but knowledge transfer has experts sharing their wisdom and experience on-the-job. Likewise, knowledge transfer supports succession planning but only after a transition is underway for the successor.
Another concept that people often confuse knowledge transfer with is knowledge management.
Cataloging and storing information is the foundation of knowledge management and while knowledge transfer takes advantage of these resources—provided they exist and are up to date—they aren’t a prerequisite.
Why Knowledge Transfer Is Important for Your Business?
Regardless of your company size and industry, effective and systemized knowledge transfer is critical to steer your business towards growth.
You don’t need a reminder about the growing employee turnover problem: companies lose 13% of their people every year because of voluntary turnover and 6% because of a reduction in force or termination due to poor performance.
These numbers alone give you a reason to implement systems for preserving organizational knowledge and enabling smooth knowledge transfer. As the process involves quantifying and qualifying knowledge that exists in the mind, sharing knowledge can either be incredibly productive or a sloppy mess.
When productive, knowledge transfer can offer a template to develop talent and provide guidance on critical issues like role clarity, standards, consistency, and priority.
How can you ensure your knowledge transfer is productive? Build a viable knowledge transfer system that allows personnel to translate their wisdom into words, visuals, and processes that can then be shared with your staff to improve efficiency.
You don’t have to take our word for it—studies indicate that businesses that implemented a knowledge transfer system saw a 50% rise in sales and experienced a significant reduction in training costs.
Knowledge transfer enables your company to counter employee turnover and help new hires learn the knowledge and skills to hit the ground running in their new roles.
When Knowledge Transfer Occurs in the Workplace
With baby boomers quickly moving into retirement and younger employees wanting to change jobs after three years, you don’t want to make the mistake of ignoring the value of knowledge transfer.
Be prepared with a robust knowledge transfer plan when:
- A huge chunk of your workforce is nearing retirement
- You’re launching an internship program to boost your onboarding packet
- Key staff personnel is leaving the company
- The company is downsizing and wants to retain critical information
- You’re advertising a popular post for an internal problem
- To scale and standardize company knowledge transfer strategy
- Your remote workforce requires cross-team collaboration
How to Transfer Knowledge Effectively?
Effective knowledge transfer is based on the following four guiding principles:
- Build relationships and trust through in-person and online meetings to promote collaboration
- Maintain constant and clear communication
- Ensure knowledge givers and receivers are involved in each step of the transitioning process
- Have a holistic approach to knowledge transfer that considers generational differences, cultural diversity, and learning styles
Keeping this in mind, here’s a step-by-step rundown to create an effective knowledge transfer strategy across multiple areas/personnel.
Step 1: Identify and Collect Relevant Knowledge
The first phase is all about cultivating a strong culture of knowledge generation in your company.
Your goal is to create an environment that facilitates innovation and encourages everyone to share their ideas, input, and expertise.
Discuss company problems with your team and seek solutions and inputs. Encourage collaboration and teamwork to learn new skills and design new projects. Inviting experts and consultants to train and mentor staff also helps.
This will result in “intangible“ knowledge that you can collect, document, and share with your team.
Step 2: Document and Store Knowledge
For robust knowledge documentation and knowledge management, you need a reliable infrastructure in place that gives easy and fast access to knowledge when required.
For starters, have a knowledge base to manage your company’s explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge in the form of reports, knowledge portals, how-to videos, and CRM systems, among others.
Invest in the right knowledge management tools. With them, you can make information readily accessible when needed, leading to smoother information flow, a boost in efficiency, and better organization.
Step 3: Knowledge Transfer and Sharing
At this stage, you have the knowledge and the system to organize and store it. Next, you want to circulate the information to other departments and/or your personnel.
For this, you'll have to design a knowledge transfer plan that includes:
- Clearly outlined process explaining how knowledge will be shared in your company
- Document management systems like Google Drive to organize the knowledge and potentially automate knowledge sharing
- Communication tools like Google Hangouts or Slack to facilitate collaboration and communication
- Dedicated people to circulate knowledge to the appropriate department or staff
- Follow-up processes to confirm the delivery of information to the right people at the right time and in the right way
We recommend hiring an operations expert and using a knowledge base software to create an effective system for circulating knowledge efficiently.
Step 4: Measure Knowledge Sharing Results
Next, apply the shared knowledge and measure results across multiple key performance indicators (KPIs) using knowledge management tools.
So—if the knowledge shared was aimed to help your salespeople identify higher-quality prospects, ask the sales team to apply the knowledge and report on the results. Follow this up by recording and communicating the results to the appropriate people.
Step 5: Create New Knowledge
If you find that a solution or idea is working, apply it to other areas within your company. But if the results are coming up short, use this as an opportunity to innovate.
With a knowledge transfer system in place, your business will never miss a beat when it comes to new ideas and problem-solving. It’ll help you create a productive environment that encourages the constant pursuit of valuable knowledge.
How to Create a Successful Knowledge Transfer Plan
Knowing how to create a successful knowledge transfer plan is a critical part of sharing transferring knowledge effectively.
Here’s how you can go about preparing one for your business.Step 1: Identify Key Personnel and Their Responsibilities
Not all knowledge is important, which is why you have to determine what information is relevant for your use case and who to collect it from.
To do this, consider:
- Who are the key personnel in your organization?
- What does your company generally rely on them for?
- What responsibilities do they have that only they know how to execute?
- If these people left today, can anyone else take over their responsibilities?
Step 2: Use Knowledge Management Technology to Collect Information
Create a sustainable system to map out the knowledge in your company and then fill in the captured information accordingly.
While you can do this by building a matrix or spreadsheet, we recommend leveraging technology for capturing and sharing large amounts of information. It’s faster, simpler, and lets you automate processes when needed.
Step 3: Execute and Share the Knowledge Transfer Plan
This step focuses on sharing the correct information with the right people in the right way.
Choose a knowledge transfer method (e.g., mentorship, simulation, work shadowing, instructor-led training, guided experience) to transfer knowledge within your organization. Note you can use these methods individually or in combination—your call!.
Step 4: Assess Your Knowledge Transfer Plan
What does a successful knowledge transfer plan look like for your business?
Admittedly, there's no cookie-cutter formula or universal benchmark to measure the success of a knowledge transfer plan since every organization has unique goals. Ask yourself whether all the planning helped you accomplish the goals you set out to achieve. Did it highlight knowledge gaps within your organization and eliminate them?
Reviewing the effectiveness of your knowledge transfer practices will help you revise and evolve your plan over time to maximize results.
Effective Knowledge Transfer Facilitates Business Grows
Investing time and effort to build a strong knowledge transfer strategy can be your secret to success.
Effective knowledge transfer will help your workforce learn, adjust, and improve regardless of staffing changes. It'll put your business on the fast track to consistent growth and give team members access to a wealth of knowledge for years to come.
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