4 Practices to Embed Knowledge Transfer Into Your Culture

02/25/2017 by Steve Trautman

Solving The Skills Gap Starts With Prioritizing Talent Risks

One positive talent risk management trend I’ve noticed is that business leaders seek not only a clear solution to whatever immediate talent crisis they are facing, but they also want to embed a knowledge transfer methodology into their business culture. Knowledge transfer means the planned movement of the right skills and information at the right time to keep a workforce productive, competitive, and able to execute business strategy. Here are four embedding practices that have a proven track record of success:

1. Write and execute a communication and change management plan.

  • This ensures that the vision of embedding knowledge transfer is well understood. Think carefully about the objections that are bound to arise and talk transparently about how to overcome them. Revisit this communication plan during regular business planning cycles.

2. Use the knowledge transfer tools to their full extent.

  • Clearly define job roles at the task level using a Skill Development Plan (SDP). Creating a clear task/skill list gives each employee a way to answer the question, “What’s my job?” If the knowledge transfer tools offer the most useful answer to that question, they will be used regularly.
  • Acknowledge your expert employees as “standard setters” so that everyone knows the main go-to person on the technical skills critical to your business.
  • Clearly state the skills and tasks that must be learned by every employee in a job role by customizing a SDP for each individual. This will show the employee where they have knowledge gaps and help them further their careers.
  • Ask people who have recently learned a skill, from an expert, to train the person in line behind them. They will further cement what they have learned by teaching someone else, and it will lessen the load on the expert.
  • Monitor and report on knowledge transfer progress when you’re checking status of “regular” work. Treat knowledge transfer work like any other task and manage it expecting high quality results.

3. Add knowledge transfer into existing business and HR systems and processes.

  • Tie knowledge transfer to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and business dashboards. Clarify and openly discuss how knowledge transfer will help an organization meet all business objectives. Unprepared talent may have been one of the root causes of the miss.
  • Approach every reorg and/or merger by assessing the talent implications before announcing the staffing changes. Use the Knowledge Silo Matrix (KSM) assessment framework and a SDP to explain the difference between the “old” and “new” structure.
  • Include knowledge transfer work in manager and employee performance objectives and set expectations that it will be part of an¬nual performance reviews.
  • Use knowledge transfer progress as one of the measurable factors used to inform promotions.
  • Incorporate the KSM as a standard element of discussion in quarterly or annual talent reviews.
  • Onboard every new hire, contractor, and internal transfer with the same tools, we use these five: Air, Food, & Water; The Big Picture Questions; a “First Meeting” to kick off new members’ knowledge transfer process, a customized SDP; and a Role Definition Template.

4. Recognize and reward knowledge transfer successes.

    Publicly celebrate progress as people who have mastered critical knowledge and skills take on expert status or move from being a learner/apprentice to being able to work independently.

  • Thank your experts/mentors for teaching what they know to coworkers and helping to reduce talent risk in your organization. Thank the apprentices for stepping up to new roles. Thank the managers for clearing the path to help make it all happen.