5 easy tips for a successful knowledge transfer plan
A knowledge transfer plan allows you to preserve important company information that might otherwise be lost with turnover. But this type of knowledge doesn’t spread automatically. If you want to preserve it for current and future team members, putting a plan in place is a necessity.
What is a knowledge transfer plan?
A knowledge transfer strategy or plan refers to a system intended to preserve and codify important information that might otherwise be lost. It’s knowledge management for the long-term benefit of the company.
When we talk about knowledge transfer, we’re not referring to general training information like “how to overcome customer objections” or “how to operate a cash register.” Guidelines, policies and best practices are all well-documented in most cases. A knowledge transfer plan looks beyond the basics and helps you preserve the tacit knowledge that makes a good employee a great employee.
The key here is explicit knowledge vs. tacit knowledge. Explicit knowledge includes the major policies and job functions that are integral to the role. But tacit knowledge refers to knowledge that isn’t as cut and dry. It may be gleaned from personal experience, highly nuanced and non-codified.
For example, if a new retail store employee completes a training lesson on how to operate the point-of-sale system, they’re acquiring explicit knowledge. But if a fellow employee teaches them shortcuts for processing transactions more quickly, that would be more in line with tacit knowledge.
How to implement a successful knowledge transfer plan
You have to be proactive if you want to preserve knowledge. You can’t expect it to be orally passed down like myths in the ancient world. The goal is to make knowledge capture part of the work process, something that’s always happening. Then, when someone leaves suddenly or without much notice, you don’t have to scramble. Plus, the “next level” knowledge that top performers apply can be shared with others so that everyone can benefit.
There’s no singular way to implement a knowledge succession plan, but the following tips can help ensure success.
1. Prioritize knowledge management
First, you need to prioritize knowledge sharing within your business. It must be baked into job expectations, not be a secondary or additional task. This priority—and the protocols beneath it—should be understood not just by management but by everyone in the organization, as everyone potentially has their own tacit knowledge to share.
2. Determine who is responsible for knowledge-sharing practices
When it comes to imparting general knowledge in the workplace, the responsibility often falls on the learning and development team. But L&D is not always directly responsible for knowledge succession planning, especially in larger organizations. Only your organization can decide how to best delegate this responsibility and whether or not to establish a dedicated knowledge management professional. No matter who you put in charge of overseeing the knowledge transfer program, make sure that they’re invested in promoting the practices, selecting and maintaining resources, establishing guidelines and overseeing the technology. This curator doesn’t create the content; they make it easy for others to share and access the information.
3. Determine how knowledge will be shared
Next, you need to determine how you intend to transfer knowledge. You must look at the workflow and knowledge priorities to select tools and build processes that fit within the workflow based on how information is used. While a wiki or intranet may work well in a contact center, it’s not ideal for a retail environment where people are on their feet all day. For that type of environment, a tool like Axonify works especially well because people can access shared company information on demand from their mobile devices.
4. Make tacit information explicit
You don’t need to deliver formal training on all—or even most—of your tacit information. However, you can assess your expanded body of shared knowledge to determine if some information should be baked into formal training while the rest remains available for on-demand reference. If you use a training platform that’s tailored to your industry, like a retail LMS or grocery LMS, a lot of the explicit training materials should already be easily accessible at your fingertips; you’ll just need to fill in the gaps with any tacit knowledge that’s deemed essential.
Once your knowledge succession protocols are in place, you need to continuously evaluate and refine your practices. Employees need a way to share feedback so that you have the information you need to make important refinements. Data from knowledge systems can help you understand which information is popular, what people are looking for and what’s missing. Knowledge sharing must evolve with the workflow, not be locked in time.
An effective knowledge transfer process for a better-prepared workforce
If you’re not sure where to begin, refer to your existing resources. You probably already have an impressive body of tacit knowledge that you can start archiving. Talk to your team. Review past emails, old documents and recorded lectures. Look beyond the procedural stuff and zero in on the more subtle nuggets of experience-based wisdom. Then build on that.
With a tool like Axonify, you can easily immortalize those tacit tidbits right alongside your company procedures and broad training modules. And because Axonify favors short, custom-tailored lessons delivered daily, you can constantly introduce these tacit ideas within the flow of work without ever having to pull people aside for time-intensive on-the-job training.
Knowledge is the foundation of success in the workplace; don’t let it slip away.