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Knowledge Transfer: Your Secret Weapon for a Smarter Workplace

10/11/2023
A senior employee teaching a younger colleague
Reading Time: 5 minutes

What Is Knowledge Transfer? 

Knowledge transfer is an organizational process that identifies, documents, and distributes information. It involves exchanging knowledge among the company’s workers or departments. Simply put, knowledge transfer is sharing valuable information and ideas within your organization to retain business-critical skills for years.

As more Americans near retirement age, the current workforce is experiencing a generational shift. In this transformation, millennials and GenZ form a larger part of the talent pool. According to statistics, millennials make up 35% of the current US workforce. Meanwhile, trends show that 27% of the US workforce will be from Gen Z by 2025.

For your organization, this development has significant implications. Your senior and executive employees with invaluable knowledge are set to retire, creating a need for succession. Here, having an effective knowledge transfer plan can help you preserve and pass on this critical expertise. But first, what is knowledge transfer?

What are the Two Forms of Knowledge Transfer?

One critical part of knowledge transfer is applying newly acquired knowledge and skills in different contexts. The goal is to effectively put the acquired knowledge into practice so that company expertise remains relevant and adaptable. 

Beyond application, another important part of knowledge transfer is its nature. That is, knowledge transfer comes in two forms: explicit and tacit. 

Why is Knowledge Transfer Important for your Organization? 

Knowledge transfer is a strategic plan for sustaining business-critical skills and knowledge from one workforce generation to another. It also helps you address skills gaps in your workforce.

Here are some benefits of having a knowledge transfer plan.

International,executive,team,people,having,board,meeting,discussing,project,results.

1. Collects and centralizes organizational knowledge

Knowledge transfer involves creating a structured database of lessons learned, innovative solutions, and best practices. It prevents the loss of vital information, especially when key employees leave or retire. This database serves as your “company bible” to guide all employees’ actions and decisions, ensuring everyone is on the same page regarding procedures and quality standards. 

2. Improves problem-solving and conflict resolution

Shared resources enable teams to have accessible insights on addressing challenges. Not only does this accessibility help decision-making, but it also guides you in resolving conflicts regarding projects and other work-related disagreements. 

3. Efficiently trains new employees

Onboarding new employees becomes more streamlined with a solid knowledge transfer plan. New workers can learn from the wisdom of their predecessors and apply best practices more quickly. Plus, your new hires can tap into the documented knowledge base anytime if they’re still unclear about the organization’s history, culture, and processes.

As a result, you can reduce the learning curve and empower new employees to make meaningful contributions from Day One.

4. Nurtures future leaders

Knowledge transfer initiatives such as mentoring programs equip emerging talents with the needed expertise for managerial roles. For example, seasoned leaders can pass down strategic perspectives to mentees. Knowledge transfer also imparts leadership philosophies for talented employees to become more effective leaders.

Ultimately, these programs can increase your organization’s bench strength or ability to immediately fill vacant positions with talented in-house staff. Then, you can have a smooth leadership transition⎯ready to tackle future challenges.

5. Increases employee retention

Employees who feel you value their knowledge are more likely to stay. Implementing a knowledge transfer process fosters a sense of belonging and professional growth, as it shows your organization’s commitment to employee development. These factors can translate into increased employee retention rates and reduced costly turnover of valuable talent.

How to Develop a Knowledge Transfer Plan

A robust knowledge transfer plan or knowledge transfer process ensures the continuity of business expertise. Here are steps you can take to jumpstart an effective knowledge transfer process.

1. Identify the people with essential knowledge 

Employees who possess critical knowledge should already be on your radar, because their unique insights, expertise, and experiences contribute to your company’s success. For instance, seasoned engineers with an extensive understanding of proprietary technology can be an excellent knowledge source.

Knowledge transfer plan in action

2. Collect and store important knowledge

Once you’ve identified the key knowledge holders, the next step is to gather and document their valuable insights. 

For example, you can initiate the creation of comprehensive documentation of best practices or an archive of project reports and case studies. In coding standards, you can require your software development team to maintain a repository of code snippets and standards that can help ensure consistent quality.

3. Distribute the knowledge to all employees

Organizational knowledge only develops when it’s available to all employees. So, you need to ensure that everyone can access company databases for your knowledge transfer plan to be effective. This step may involve developing a user-friendly knowledge management system or an intranet where employees can easily access relevant information.

4. Encourage employees to share knowledge

Encouraging a culture of knowledge sharing within your organization can enhance the efficacy of your plan. You’ll need a standard procedure for future knowledge sharing to ensure everyone can contribute. 

You can also facilitate better tracking and accessibility by creating a company wiki or knowledge database. Consider an online platform where employees can easily contribute their insights and solutions for a seamless knowledge transfer.

How to Execute Your Knowledge Transfer Plan Effectively

You’ve got a solid plan for knowledge transfer. Now, how do you bring it to life? Here are some practical tips to get your initiative off the ground:

Set Clear Goals

Know what you want to achieve. Are you aiming to smooth out leadership transitions? Boost team productivity? Having clear targets will keep everyone focused.

Match Teachers and Learners

Pair your resident experts with team members eager to learn. Look for people who communicate well as well as those who are ready to put new knowledge into action.

Offer Learning Variety

People learn differently. Some prefer hands-on experience, while others like to read. Offer a mix of workshops, written guides, and video tutorials to cater to different styles.

Carve Out Time

Don’t let knowledge transfer get pushed to the back burner. Schedule regular sessions and stick to them. Doing this shows your team that learning is a priority.

Keep It Digestible

Break down complex topics into smaller, manageable parts. It helps prevent information overload and makes learning less daunting.

Welcome Questions

Create an environment where people feel comfortable asking for help or clarification. After all, the only dumb question is the one that doesn’t get asked, right?

Practice Makes Perfect

Give your team opportunities to use their new skills right away. It’s a great way to reinforce learning and shows the immediate value of the knowledge shared.

Check In Regularly

Keep tabs on how things are going. Regular check-ins help you spot what’s working and what needs tweaking.

Preserving Essential Company Wisdom

Effective knowledge transfer is more than a strategic choice. It’s a lifeline to success in the current business landscape, wherein more seniors and executives are near retirement age. Embracing a culture of knowledge-sharing retains expertise and empowers every employee to contribute to the company’s growth and sustainable success.

Reach out to EmployTest to learn how to bridge your company’s knowledge gap. We offer pre-employment assessment tests that can help you identify lacking skills and craft an effective knowledge transfer plan. Check out our sample pre-employment test today.