It has been estimated that 10,000 people a day retire in the United States. In addition to skyrocketing retirement rates, SHRM reports that 41-47 million people willingly quit their jobs each year (sans Covid-19). When employees retire or leave for new opportunities, what happens to the knowledge and expertise acquired during their tenure? The transfer of knowledge within companies is an organizational concept that many business leaders often realize has been overlooked, too late. While the importance of knowledge transfer is typically recognized throughout organizations, few have formulated practical approaches that systematically address the issue. The extent to which most companies facilitate the transfer of knowledge is usually by exit interviews or post-employment checklists. With an increased focus on e-commerce and company layoffs at an all-time high due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, efficient operations will be the key to your business surviving post-pandemic and maintaining a competitive edge. Your company’s ability to effectively facilitate and manage the transfer of knowledge will be the determining factor of both.
What is knowledge transfer?
Knowledge transfer is how the wisdom, experience, and professional knowledge of your staff can be stored and shared in a systematic way across your organization. The two primary components of knowledge transfer are explicit knowledge and tacit 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. The knowledge that is mostly lost to retirement and employee turnover is tacit knowledge.
Tacit knowledge is gained through on-the-job experience and is accumulated over the years that one spends at their company. Tacit knowledge can include information such as knowing which issues to account for when being asked for help or creative, on the go solutions that have been proven to be effective. Tacit knowledge is sometimes referred to as tribal knowledge. Although the two concepts are not the same, most tacit knowledge is tribal knowledge, which is the knowledge that is not recorded or shared formally - typically acquired through experience. It is the wisdom and wealth of information that experience creates that business leaders have realized is being lost to retirement and turnover, and finding ways to pass down intangible knowledge systematically proves to be a challenge for many companies.
Why is knowledge transfer necessary?
Ask yourself what would happen to business operations if the only person who understood a critical process were to leave to pursue a different opportunity suddenly? Most small businesses are made up of no more than 6-10 employees who specialize in a specific area of the company. Ultimately, this means that if an employee is to leave, critical information specific to that employee’s position is likely to be lost. Now imagine that your business has a clearly defined process (training material, protocol handbooks, or smart tools) to transfer the vital information your former employee has acquired throughout the years. How much time, productivity, and inevitably revenue would be saved by not having to devote resources to train and equip a new staff member with that information? The ability to implement productive knowledge transfer protocols can contribute to positive changes in productivity and adaptability, which lead to an increase in revenue, business growth, and the overall efficiency of day-to-day operations.
How do companies facilitate knowledge transfer effectively?
Knowledge management! In addition to searching for high-yielding methods to transfer knowledge, companies and business leaders also need to develop a knowledge management strategy to manage and disseminate critical information throughout the company. Developing a knowledge management strategy is the first step in creating a systematic approach to knowledge transfer. It includes creating a knowledge-sharing culture that filters from leadership down, deciding specifically who knows what and who needs to know what within your organization, and ensuring employees have access to what they need to know when they need to know it. Knowledge management is a big job and can be overwhelming for small business owners with a smaller workforce.
One of the most productive ways to construct your business’s knowledge management strategy is to utilize independent Human Resources leadership to guide and organize the process. Independent HR contractors can help you determine how the information will be stored, transferred, and referenced. Outsourcing can also bring an objective perspective to the table that will allow business owners to recognize the inter-generational differences and preferred learning styles of your staff more efficiently.
Independent HR contractors can offer solutions that are tailored to the needs of your business knowledge transfer process including but not limited to training programs that ensure that new hires perform to their full potential, the introduction of smart tools that can record and store future and existing data, and the implementation of creative knowledge transfer tools such as wiki blogs, informational videos, and digital sharing spaces. The addition of an HR contractor to help manage the knowledge transfer process will support precise decision-making that makes your business more responsive and enhances the customer experience.
If you would like additional information on outsourcing Human Resources leadership and services to help your business’s knowledge management, email us at info@DeepEndStrategies.com.