The transfer of knowledge within an organization is often a poorly recognized issue. Most businesses will agree that it should be done, but very few have approached knowledge transfer in any systematic way. And yet it’s been estimated that up to 10,000 people retire every day in the US. That’s an awful lot of company knowledge that’s walking out the door. And what about key staff members that leave unexpectedly? What happens to their knowledge and expertise?
Quite simply, this represents a significant drain of a company’s collective wisdom and can impact on overall innovation, growth and efficiency. So if you haven’t already done so, introducing mechanisms to capture and transfer critical company information makes good business sense. A company portal offers a central hub to facilitate the knowledge transfer process. Read on to find out how.
What Is Knowledge Transfer?
Essentially, knowledge transfer is all about experts sharing their wisdom, experience and specific occupational knowledge with their colleagues on the job.
There are two main elements to it:
- Explicit Knowledge: Explicit knowledge is the type of information that you find in manuals or databases. It can be readily articulated and is relatively easy to transmit. So, for example, the steps an employee needs to take to complete a task such as setting up a new supplier on the system would be an example of explicit knowledge.
- Tacit Knowledge: On the other hand, tacit knowledge is, as you would expect, more intangible. It includes things like what to look out for, when to ask for help as well as on-the-job experiences and creative solutions. It’s capturing this more elusive type of knowledge that businesses are struggling with.
Closely aligned to knowledge transfer is knowledge management. In fact, the cataloging and storing of information that knowledge management involves is an essential first step in developing a systematic approach to knowledge transfer.
Why Is Knowledge Transfer Important?
We’ve already touched on some aspects of this. The bottom line is that knowledge transfer within a business can contribute to increased productivity, agility and adaptability as well as ultimately profits and growth. We all know of those instances where a colleague retiring after 40 years in the company leaves a massive void simply because that individual had so much accumulated knowledge about the business. Imagine how much more nimble and responsive your business would have been if there had been a clear process to transfer that colleague’s critical knowledge.
How Can Companies Transfer Knowledge?
There’s no getting away from it, knowledge transfer is a complex process. Not only do companies have to be clear about what kind of knowledge is critical for the business to capture, they also need to take account of inter-generational differences. Different generations in the workplace will have different preferences when it comes to learning. This applies to both the sources and receivers and of information. Therefore, there’s no one size fits all solution and companies have found themselves developing a number of strategies in response to specific needs and the learning preferences of different cohorts of employees. These strategies have included the following:
- Mentoring arrangements
- Simulations and games
- Communities of practice
As you can see, there is a whole range of potential strategies companies can adopt depending on their requirements and staff members’ preferences. In addition, some of these responses involve technology and others do not so that businesses can address the whole spectrum of learning preferences within the workplace.
How Intranet Software Can Facilitate Knowledge Transfer
A company portal will be a central part of any overall strategy to facilitate knowledge movement. It also has the advantage of being a common platform used by all staff members across the organization. Let’s look in more detail at just how a company portal will facilitate knowledge transfer.
As we’ve seen, knowledge management is a fundamental first step in developing a comprehensive knowledge transfer strategy. The company portal is the obvious repository for the explicit knowledge within the organization. Located here will be all the manuals, guidelines, databases, external rules and regulations that govern your business. An advanced search functionality makes locating the information an easy and intuitive process for the user. Data can be searched via tags, titles, job function or whatever is appropriate for your business. In this way, there will be one central source of organizational truth that staff members can depend on as being accurate and up to date.
In terms of the four primary learning styles, the company portal can satisfy all needs. Most of us favour one of the following learning styles over the others, so offering a mix of opportunities to transfer knowledge will satisfy most employees whether they be the source or the recipient.
- Visual Learners: As you would expect visual learners prefer to use pictures, diagrams and spatial understanding. The company portal can address this need through how-to-videos, webinars or infographics that demonstrate key business tasks, company processes or how to utilize company equipment.
- Auditory Learners: By contrast, auditory learners prefer to listen to instructions and hear information. The company portal can satisfy this learning preference by using podcasts to transfer key company. What’s more these types of learners like to recite information out loud to remember it so incorporating opportunities in other media for these learners to repeat back key points would be helpful.
- Reading/Writing Learners: These types of learners, not surprisingly, prefer to learn by reading and writing. For them, text is a much more powerful medium than pictures, diagrams or sound. Quizzes, checklists and wikis on the company portal are a great format to transfer knowledge for these types of learners. They will also love to access information from the knowledge management section of the company portal as well as FAQs and blogs.
- Kinesthetic Learners: This last group of learners prefer to learn by getting their hands dirty and experimenting. They learn best by actually doing. The company portal can facilitate knowledge transfer for these types of learners by offering opportunities for simulations and role play as well as facilitating mentorships and apprenticeships. The company portal can connect staff members through communities of practice, shared workspaces and blogs.
Identifying Subject Experts
And when it comes to identifying subject experts within the organization, the staff directory on the company portal is a great facilitator. Including a short biography for staff members that identifies their areas of expertise and current projects, means that employees can quickly and easily identify sources of help and knowledge within the organization. This kind of self-service approach is also very empowering for staff.
Knowledge Transfer For The Future
With so many baby boomers set to retire in the coming years, it’s imperative that businesses safeguard their futures now by tapping into this vast reservoir of corporate knowledge that would otherwise be lost.
A company intranet or portal can enable and facilitate the smooth transfer of knowledge within your organization. For more information contact MyHub today for a no-obligation discussion on the possibilities.