Ever had a veteran employee leave only to discover you have a massive void? We have all been there. Whether it’s retirement or resignation, a lot of company knowledge is walking out the door daily. Here’s the deal. According to the latest stats, 10,000 Baby Boomers retire every day. And let’s not forget the Great Resignation. According to one survey, almost half of workers are looking for a new job or plan to soon. No matter the reason, the impact is the same. Productivity, performance, and innovation take a massive hit. Shared know-how is no longer nice to have. It’s a must-have if you want to leapfrog the competition. However, getting started is a challenge when your in-tray is already jam-packed. We make it easy for you with a simple six-step process to unlock knowledge transfer in your business.
What Is Knowledge Transfer And Why Is It Important?
Essentially, it’s about getting the right information to the right people at the right time.
Knowledge transfer involves workers sharing their wisdom, experience, and insights with their colleagues on the job. It means finding ways to transfer the expertise in people’s heads into a central system that’s available to all employees.
It’s essential if you want to minimize the risk of knowledge loss when a worker leaves. Instead, your people have a centralized hub where knowledge is stored, tagged, and searchable for easy access. All employees, whether new, experienced, on-site, or remote, have instant access to company know-how.
And it makes your people more productive. Less time is wasted on searching for information, reinventing the wheel, or repeating old mistakes. Rather, your business is future-proofed and better equipped to face the challenges of an ever-changing operating environment.
But shared knowledge isn’t just about filling the boots of a departing colleague. It’s also about developing a culture of continuous learning and improvement. You see, knowledge transfer contributes to increased productivity, agility, and adaptability.
It supports faster, more accurate decision-making and underpins sustainable high performance. Knowledge transfer also makes your business more responsive, enhancing the overall customer experience and supporting customer retention and growth strategies.
Ultimately, you will reap the rewards in improved profits and growth.
However, unshared knowledge costs organizations money. That’s the main message from research by Panopto. Effective knowledge transfer can save small businesses up to $2 million on employee productivity. And for larger firms, the news is even better, with up to $200 million of potential savings on offer.
What Are The Types Of Knowledge Transfer?
There are two main elements:
- explicit knowledge
- tacit knowledge
This is the type of information you find in manuals, SOPs, and databases. It can be easily written, communicated, and shared. A good example is the process involved in setting up a new supplier on the system.
Tacit knowledge is harder to pin down. It includes things like issues to look out for, when to ask for help, on-the-job experiences, and creative solutions. A workplace example is identifying the exact moment a prospect is ready to hear your sales pitch. Often, this kind of insight comes after many years of experience. And it’s this more intangible knowledge that businesses are struggling to retain and pass on.
Barriers To Effective Knowledge Transfer
Before we dive into our six simple steps, let’s look at the barriers that can get in the way.
- Sometimes, the worker with expert know-how may not realize its value. The result is the knowledge goes unrecorded and gets lost. For example, the sales expert makes landing the killer deal seem so effortless. However, they may fail to recognize all the nuances they have built up over many years on the job. It just comes naturally to them. However, it’s a different story for a recruit who’s new to the sales process.
- Often, a lack of standardized processes for harvesting and transferring expertise causes problems. Your workers have no guiding light, which makes it more difficult and time-consuming for the giver and receiver.
- Another barrier is poor communication skills. Just because you are an expert in your field doesn’t mean you can easily explain the process to others. That’s where standardization makes all the difference.
- Every workforce is made up of a variety of individuals with differing ages, learning styles, and preferences. Some people are more comfortable with technology than others. Certain people respond better to visual information, while others prefer text. It’s this diversity that makes your workforce so dynamic. However, it’s also a reason why knowledge transfer is so challenging.
Knowledge Sharing: Guiding Principles
Here are a few guiding principles to ensure effective knowledge sharing in your organization.
- The essential starting point is an organizational commitment to the whole process. All corners of the business should be on board.
- Your people must understand the business, not individual workers own that company know-how.
- Promote trust with open dialogue. Use face-to-face or online meetings to develop strong relationships between your people.
- Take a holistic approach that embraces different learning styles, generational preferences, and diversity.
Effective Knowledge Transfer In Six Simple Steps
1. Identify The Knowledge To Transfer
The first step is identifying who knows what – and who needs to know what. Think of it this way. If your most valuable workers resigned tomorrow, what knowledge would leave with them? It will be a mix of everyday explicit expertise and the more complex tacit variety. Remember, you don’t need to capture every single nugget of wisdom. Focus on critical know-how, and the process becomes more manageable.
Cultivate internal expertise by inviting staff to share their challenges, identify where knowledge and skill gaps are, and welcome suggestions for improvement. Create awareness amongst internal experts to start formally capturing their knowledge.
- What roles are most at risk of knowledge loss?
- What do these jobholders know that other workers don’t?
- What expertise is critical?
- How does the team cope when your go-to people are on vacation or off sick?
- How is this information saved and shared, if at all?
2. Harvest And Store Know-How
Capturing expertise is where many organizations come unstuck. It shouldn’t be just an information dump. And a standardized process makes the task more straightforward. Our free knowledge transfer checklist helps you work out what’s critical. And it ensures the knowledge captured is consistent and in a similar format.
Below is a suggested template that you can adapt to your requirements.
You can use it to capture knowledge relating to a process, skill or task, not just for a particular jobholder or role.
Ask staff to document their processes in the template.
Free Knowledge Transfer Checklist Template
Below is a suggested template that you are free to use and adapt to your own requirements. As you can see, the template can be used to capture knowledge in relation to a process, skill or task and not just for a particular jobholder or role. In addition, the knowledge transfer method will be influenced by the source of the knowledge as well as the recipient and by what’s possible within your business depending on its size and capabilities. Please refer back to the knowledge transfer examples listed above for some inspiration.
Our Knowledge Transfer Checklist is available as a Word document or PDF download.
|Name||Job role/area of expertise/process/task/skill||Knowledge transfer method|
|Overview||A brief overview of the context and the knowledge transfer being conveyed.|
|Objectives & responsibilities||A summary of the jobholder’s overall objectives and responsibilities or the task, process, or skill.|
|Deliverables||For a jobholder, this includes detailed information on work in progress and a status report for all projects.
For a task or process, describe the required outputs and the milestones towards their achievement.
|Contacts||A complete list of internal and external contacts required for the completion of the jobholder’s duties or to achieve the task or process.|
|Meetings||A schedule of meetings relevant to the jobholder’s duties or completing the task, plus a database of minutes and agendas.|
|Compliance & regulatory requirements||Details of any central or local regulations and compliance requirements.|
|Budgetary & financial||Information on any budgetary or financial parameters within which the jobholder or task operates. Details on how budgets are set and reporting responsibilities are assigned.|
|Risks||Details of any risks associated with the jobholder’s duties or the task, including their management and mitigation.|
|Tacit knowledge||A record of the jobholder’s insights, accumulated wisdom, and knowledge.
Concerning a task or process, information on what works well and why, plus any acquired expertise about execution.
3. Share Expertise
This step is all about getting the correct information to the right people in an appropriate format. And there are several methods available. The guiding principle here is to make it easy for people to share what they know in a way that makes sense to the receiver.
There’s no one size fits all solution. Organizations have developed strategies to respond to specific needs and employees’ different learning preferences.
Here are some ideas on how to share wisdom to get you started. First, let’s look at tools for transferring explicit knowledge:
- Expert blogs
- How-to videos
- Infographics and diagrams
- Standard operating procedures
- Frequently asked questions on intranet sites
And here are some suggestions on tools for transferring tacit know-how:
- Mentoring and coaching arrangements
- Work shadowing
- Simulations and games
- Communities of practice
Organize all the information into one central hub. Develop a structured knowledge base that becomes the single source of truth. And make sure it’s searchable so data is at workers’ fingertips when needed. Consider incorporating tools like business IM to keep workers connected and talking.
Furthermore, think about introducing security and privacy controls to safeguard your most valuable IP.
4. Adapt and Update Knowledge
Knowledge transfer isn’t a one-off exercise. Your people will develop new wisdom all the time. And you want to encourage them to continue learning and challenging the status quo.
To this end, create a rolling plan outlining how revised knowledge is captured. And then incorporate review mechanisms so that outdated information gets updated or replaced.
5. Apply Knowledge
Not that you have an effective knowledge transfer system in place, ensure staff adhere and apply knowledge. The proof is in the pudding, so the old saying goes. Have some success measures identified based on quality and efficiency.
Say, for example, the knowledge shared was about improving the follow-up to leads dropping off at one stage of the sales cycle. Applying the solutions should see results in your overall sales performance.
6. Create New Knowledge
New technologies, insights, and innovations will always come on stream. Ensure the knowledge cycle continues by repeating steps 1-5. That way, your organization never stagnates. Instead, it’s continually adapting and responding, ready to face the next challenge.
Knowledge Transfer Main Takeaways
It’s the process whereby experienced employees share their accumulated wisdom and expertise with co-workers.
It reduces the risk to organizations of knowledge loss when key personnel leave. And it saves your people time and ensures they are not repeating the same old mistakes. Innovation, problem-solving, and creativity reach another level when knowledge is shared.
However, getting started can seem like an overwhelming task. Breaking it down into the following six steps makes it more manageable:
- Identify company-critical knowledge
- Make sharing easy with a standard template
- Share knowledge in a variety of engaging ways to meet different styles and personalities
- Regularly review and update
- Apply the knowledge and measure the results
- Generate new know-how
Knowledge Transfer Infographic
Check out our infographic for a handy summary of everything you need. You can also download a higher resolution for your own use here: knowledge-transfer.png
Ready to get started? MyHub’s intranet software will support you at every stage. Under one virtual roof are all the tools you need for effective knowledge transfer. We have got you covered, from capturing knowledge to sharing, updating, and applying. Find out more with a free demo or 14-day trial.
How MyHub Supports Knowledge Transfer
Discover how MyHub tools can be used to implement and support an exciting knowledge-sharing culture.
1. Identify Information
Cultivate internal knowledge by inviting staff to share their challenges, identify where knowledge and skill gaps are, and welcome suggestions for improvement. Create awareness amongst internal experts to start formally capturing their knowledge.
Use MyHub tools to prompt brainstorming sessions using Forums and Feedback modules. Encourage conversations using instant messaging #Channels. Initiate Surveys and Quizzes. Update Staff Directory with detailed employee profiles.
2. Collect & Organize multi-format Information
Ask staff to formally document their processes (consider creating “How To Do XYZ… “ templates).
Appoint key staff to gather intel – both explicit and tacit-generated knowledge – and then agree a systemized method to capture this.
Organize information into a single central hub. Develop a structured knowledge base that becomes the single source of truth.
Use MyHub tools to generate an awareness campaign using Newsfeeds and Latest Activity Wall. Build Forms and Templates to streamline and simplify information-capture.
3. Share Information
Develop a reliable and systematic way for knowledge to be shared. Create virtual learning communities, so employees find, learn and share knowledge with confidence.
Use MyHub tools to use #Channels and Newsfeeds to inform staff at a high level and link to more content (in folders) for deeper learning. Encourage participation in Forums and Feedback modules for staff to share experiences and insights.
4. Adapt and Update Knowledge
Create a rolling knowledge transfer plan which outlines how new knowledge is captured and how this information gets updated or replaced.
Determine who needs to know and how this applies to their role.
Use MyHub tools to automate email notifications to alert relevant staff each time new knowledge is added. Use #Channels and Newsfeed modules to provide further awareness. Devise templates, track tasks’ progress, and automate approval of new knowledge updates via workflows.
5. Apply Knowledge
Ensure staff adhere to and apply knowledge.
Encourage mentoring and cross-training between staff.
Use MyHub tools to Perform spot-checks on staff understanding using quiz and survey tools. Review analytics to see readership and engagement levels.
6. Create New Knowledge
Encourage staff to continue learning and challenge the status quo.
Repeat steps 1 – 5 to ensure the knowledge cycle continues and single source of truth remains intact.
Use MyHub tools to promote a knowledge-sharing culture via Newsfeed and Featured stories on your intranet home page. Prompt for new ideas and knowledge to be sought by offering incentives.