Knowledge transfer: what it is and how to do it

Without the right processes in place, you can lose valuable organizational knowledge. Here’s how to understand knowledge transfer and how to do it effectively.

knowledge transfer - Workplace from Meta
What is knowledge transfer?

What is knowledge transfer?

Knowledge transfer is how you go about sharing or distributing knowledge and expertise within an organization with a view to solving problems, increasing efficiency and boosting team collaboration.

When it comes to business, it's how you spread valuable company information, learnings and skills from one department to another. Practically, that means figuring out how that information is organized, how you can make sure it’s accessible and relevant, and how you get it to the right people at the right time.

Ensuring effective knowledge transfer to new employees is key, but keeping that organizational knowledge flowing through your company is a continuous process. Here’s why knowledge transfer is important for your business and how to keep knowledge transfer working throughout the employment cycle.

Why is knowledge transfer important?

Why is knowledge transfer important?

By ensuring that learnings and expertise are retained and shared within a company, and not lost as staff leave, knowledge transfer gives the benefit of continuity. Valuable information can be accessed and understood by different departments and built upon collaboratively rather than held tight in one employee’s hands.

Knowledge transfer systems can boost efficiency and productivity by making sure employees can readily access the information they need. This is especially vital as we switch to more flexible and remote ways of working.

It allows teams to share their experience of what has worked and what hasn’t, so employees can collaboratively learn from each other’s successes and mistakes. It can also facilitate greater innovation, by opening a problem or opportunity to teams with different skill sets and a wider range of ideas and perspectives.

Through knowledge transfer, employees are rewarded with a work environment that enhances their professional development. And encouraging employees to share in their teammates’ success as well as feel rewarded for their own value and expertise, can help improve employee engagement.

Examples of knowledge transfer

Examples of knowledge transfer

Here’s some hacks to help you implement effective knowledge transfer methods at all stages of the employment cycle:

When people join

Onboarding: Passing on company knowledge is a vital part of the induction process. Each member of the team should also spend time with the new starter, explaining and demonstrating what they do, even if they won’t be working directly with them.

Introduce your new starter to different departments and arrange for them to spend time there. That way, the person can get a rounded idea of what goes on in your organization.

Mentoring: Assigning a mentor to each new employee is one method of encouraging knowledge transfer to new employees. You can do this informally – with the new person shadowing someone senior – or formally as part of a mentoring scheme.

When people are working for you

When people are working for you

Training and development: Having an effective program of training and development doesn’t just help you recruit and retain staff – it also helps knowledge flow through your organization.

Make use of in-house expertise by encouraging senior staff to train juniors, and use outside experts to bring new knowledge and expertise into the company via training.

Sharing learnings: Foster a culture of sharing in your organization to prevent organizational knowledge ending up in silos. Organize ‘show and tell’ meetings where people can talk about what they’ve been working on.

You can also use collaboration tools that make sharing and retrieving organizational knowledge easy. Workplace groups, for example, are shared spaces for individuals and teams to share documents, collaborate on files and store project documents.

Documentation: People can’t share organizational knowledge if it lives in someone’s head. You should consider some form of knowledge management system to ensure people can document processes, methods, and learnings – and make them accessible to the people who need them.

When people leave

When people leave

Exit processes: One of the riskiest times for knowledge escaping your organization is when someone leaves. Set up a formal process to help people share the important information.

And don’t forget, your collaboration platform can act as the secure repository for this knowledge for as long as you need it. So new members of the team can benefit from your hard earned organizational knowledge straight away.

How to create an effective knowledge transfer process

How to create an effective knowledge transfer process

Here are some steps you can take to help you build an effective knowledge transfer process in your company.

Capture information

First, you’ll need to gather key information about the ideas, best practices, processes and technology that are vital to your company. Encourage your employees to participate in the knowledge capturing process.

Consider the audience

Think about who the information will be shared with and how you can best present the information for that audience. Choose a format that will be easily understood and engaging.

Organize the information

Employees need to be able to find information for it to be useful. Categorize any documents using keywords, tags and labels so it’s accessible.

Distribute the information

There are different techniques you can use to transfer knowledge, like mentoring, shadowing, hands-on training, or documentation. Figure out the best approach for the knowledge you want to share.

Encourage collaborative working

Encourage employees to use collaborative tools that encourage knowledge sharing when teams are working remotely.

Continue creating knowledge

They say learning is a lifelong process and that applies to your business too. Workshops, training and talks by industry experts can help foster professional development in your staff and keep your business innovative and thriving.

Create a structured approach

Set clear objectives and timelines for the knowledge transfer process and decide on appropriate benchmarks to monitor how it’s impacting on your business.

Encourage employees to report on new ideas, solutions and technologies to ensure that the knowledge transfer process is adaptive and not stagnant.

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