Are you preparing to welcome the next generation of employees, while older employees retire? A critical need in this scenario: knowledge transfer – organizing, creating, capturing, and distributing knowledge within the organization, to ensure its availability for future users.

Deloitte, known for its effective knowledge management, lists the benefits. Companies can protect their intellectual capital, focus on human capital, re-orient their culture – all through an optimal knowledge sharing strategy. Other gains include linking people to people through collaboration.

But it’s not just about a book

This knowledge is not limited to guidelines and handbooks. In fact, what’s more valuable is the experience-based, practical learning that employees gather. Often, such learning is mission critical, and needs to be shared among employees. How? Dorothy Leonard, author of Deep Smarts, a book on tools of knowledge transfer, highlights a few essentials:

  • Retain experience-based know-how. Both, technical and soft skills knowledge should be retained through the process of sharing. This includes project management skills, and maintaining relationships within as well as outside the organization.
  • Help mentors pass along their expertise. Mentors can teach through practical problem sets and hands-on diagnoses, instead of just lectures and presentations. Newcomers can learn more efficiently by keeping learning logs that chronicle their experiences, and through scheduled feedback sessions with their mentors.
  • Encourage reverse mentoring. Seniors mentor freshers, but the process could be reversed too. For example, newcomers could tutor experienced personnel across topics like  social media, design thinking, diversity trends, etc.
  • Generate new knowledge. Conduct research, benchmark, or bring in external experts whose interactions with employees can spark creativity.

It begins at the top

Such knowledge exchange depends on the active participation of experienced employees who have the wisdom to share, but not always the time. As Leonard points out, often, they are senior managers and leaders with packed schedules. If you are in a leadership position, you can play a vital role in making knowledge transfer a successful process. And ensure other leaders participate too. Here’s how:

  • Initiate it. Invest time to teach, to show your commitment to knowledge sharing. Another way of doing this: set aside a few minutes before a team meeting and ask everyone to share experiences or challenges related to a given topic.
  • Make it formal. In Leonard’s words, “Tie preservation of critical know-how to corporate strategy.” Create checklists, and templates to ensure that employees understand the importance of effective knowledge transfer. Provide tools and systems for them to use.
  • Encourage. Give your people the flexibility to seek out what they need to learn. Help them identify the gaps in their knowledge; encourage them to reach out to seniors and peers for learning.
  • Support it. Facilitate initiatives that recognize current expertise, and encourage it to be shared. A simple way of doing this: designate specific idea/ experience sharing spaces for employees.

Ready to embark on your enterprise-wide knowledge sharing program, now? Remember, that while knowledge transfer can have broad, universal checklists, each organization has to create a system suitable for its people. One size does not fit all. Find the one that works for your people, and help them harvest the critical knowledge available among their fellows.

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