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What Is Knowledge Transfer and Why Does Your Business Need It?

August 18, 2022

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Most of all, knowledge transfer systems can prevent you from losing company knowledge.Every company has veteran experts.

These folks have the most knowledge when it comes to routine SOPs, client relationships, and how to integrate robust pieces of the business.

Let’s call our hypothetical veteran “Sam.”

Sam’s been around longer than anyone can remember. Everyone loves Sam. Why? Because Sam has the answer to any question. They’re always willing to explain how things get done.

Then, tragedy strikes.

Sam is retiring, and they’ve just handed in their two weeks. They’ll leave with an encyclopedia’s worth of valuable information that’s provided answers to many of the company’s questions.

A teenager making a peace out sign before disappearing.

You should be celebrating retirement with Sam, not scrambling to figure out how the show will go on. What you need to do is get the encyclopedia living in Sam’s head into the hands of all of your employees.

How will you do this? By implementing a knowledge transfer system!

What is knowledge transfer?

Knowledge transfer is the process of transitioning critical information between different employees — like passing a torch. The senior members of your team share their insights and practical knowledge within the organization so nothing is ever lost.

Knowledge transfer is necessary for a number of reasons.

Let’s go back to Sam. Experts in your company (especially if they’ve been there for years or even decades) have experienced-based knowledge to share with others.

Without a system that promotes knowledge transfer, that valuable information leaves when they go. If you have your experts share this knowledge in an accessible way before you lose them, you’ll keep all of it within the company.

Losing team members isn’t the only reason you should create opportunities for knowledge transfer.

Maybe one of your employees is being promoted to manager. How is that employee going to operate at the same level as the previous one? Without a way of transferring knowledge, you could be setting up your new manager for failure.

There’s also restructuring to consider. Let’s say you’re getting rid of a department and allocating its resources — including team members — to another. By organizing their information beforehand, you can keep everyone in the loop, making for a smoother transition.

How can knowledge transfer help me?

Many businesses struggle with silos. These are cliquey formations that keep communication in small parts of your company rather than across departments.

Projects that involve cooperation between multiple departments often suffer from miscommunication and mixups because of these silos.

The best way to combat this is with a knowledge transfer system. It keeps knowledge consistent across your company, meaning everyone works together more efficiently.

Speaking of which, knowledge transfer systems can help you update your SOPs to streamline tasks.

For example, your employees’ practices may evolve, and they might find new ways to accomplish what they need to with more ease and efficiency than the existing SOP.

Having a system for them to share their insights allows you to capitalize on their ambition and recognize them for their hard work.

Most of all, knowledge transfer systems can prevent you from losing company knowledge.

This is the hidden knowledge that certain team members know, but which ensures that everyone performs well. Having a system in place so employees can collect this information means it will live on, even as your workforce changes.

Isn’t knowledge transfer just another name for onboarding?

Not exactly. But there is some overlap, and it can make onboarding a whole lot easier.

Onboarding is the process of getting new or transitioning employees up to speed. It’s how your company prepares team members to take on their new roles, and it’s important to get right. If onboarding programs aren’t sufficient enough, you risk losing those employees to disengagement or turnover.

This is where effective knowledge transfer comes into play.

By making it easy for experienced employees to share their knowledge with new ones, you’re creating opportunities for mentorship within your organization.

Mentorship in the onboarding process is proven to be the one of best ways for new employees to understand and contribute to their new roles.

Having a clear and efficient knowledge transfer system also means new hires can get started quickly, making them feel like productive and valuable team members.

An effective knowledge transfer system means that your less experienced team members will have access to the valuable insight of seasoned experts, whether they get to mentor with them or not.

Doesn’t knowledge transfer happen on its own?

Some of it does, but you want to make sure that you have a thorough way to capture what slips through the cracks.

Knowledge sharing is going to happen organically through collaboration, mentorship, and daily interactions.

However, think back to the “Sam” situation from earlier.

Without a formal system in place, you risk losing a lot. When you lose experienced employees, you lose the value that they offer, including years of practical experience and relationship building.

Losing someone valuable shouldn’t put a full stop to your operations. Putting formal systems in place ensures that knowledge transfer happens while they’re still around, allowing you to avoid those sticky situations.

It’s not to say that new employees are incompetent. In fact, they have a ton of potential — including fluency in the digital sphere. All that’s missing is a little experience. A formal knowledge transfer system means you can take full advantage of that potential while they acclimate to their new roles.

A mother with her daughter and saying, "So this is what people did before the Internet."

Not sure how to start? Let’s go through some ways you can implement a knowledge transfer system that works.

How can I make knowledge transfer a part of my business?

1. Find out where your company knowledge is.

The first step to creating a knowledge transfer system is to figure out who your Sams are.

Look at your company and identify your top performers and experts. Identify their best attributes and figure out what they excel at.

Then, give them the opportunities to share their expertise. Make them mentors to your new employees, have them facilitate meetings where their knowledge lies, and give them formal processes for sharing what they know.

Getting your experts to contribute their niche experience shows them that you value what they do while facilitating knowledge transfer.

Identifying the company knowledge that senior employees have can help you share that information with everyone else. This means everyone has access to the information that helps them perform best.

2. Encourage knowledge sharing.

Ideally, knowledge sharing is already a part of your company culture.

It may happen organically in those departmental silos we mentioned, but the goal is to make it an organization-wide practice. Encourage everyone to share what they know with one another by making it a company-wide expectation.

A woman making a heart shape with her hands and saying, "Sharing is caring."

You can do so by making space for employees to share knowledge through:

  • Team or department meetings.
  • Emails. 
  • Designated channels of communication. 
  • A good old-fashioned suggestion box.

There’s no harm in offering incentives for sharing knowledge or proposing ideas! If employees stand to gain from sharing their knowledge with others, they’re more likely to do so.

Encouraging your employees to share knowledge is great, but it’s not authentic unless leaders model the behavior as well.

3. Make documenting knowledge a regular part of your business practices.

One of the biggest challenges of knowledge sharing is implementing a formal system for documenting that knowledge. Making knowledge transfer a part of your business practices is the best way to ensure information is never lost.

One way to get in the habit of documenting what’s important is by creating a knowledge base that all employees can access. This includes a company wiki, where your company can organize company knowledge, policies, and SOPs in one platform.

There are many tools you can use to make documenting knowledge easy. Trainual, for example, offers templates that make documenting hidden knowledge easy.

4. Use knowledge transfer to get results.

Knowledge transfer levels the playing field for your employees.

The more you facilitate knowledge transfer within your organization, the better your results. Offering ways for employees to develop their skills means they can perform alongside your top talent.

Again, to take advantage of the skills that new employees bring to the table, they’ll need access to the information needed to apply those skills. This way, you can avoid a total halt in operations and get the newbies up to speed sooner.

You might be losing Sam, but you don’t need to lose what Sam knows.

Making knowledge transfer a part of your company culture is the best way to keep knowledge consistent and continue scaling your business.

Ready to start?

Documenting knowledge doesn’t have to be hard and the practice is easy to maintain once you get started.

Here’s how you can get the ball rolling:

  1. Gather your experts someplace that they can share what they know.
  2. Ask them to tell you about their area of expertise. You can take notes or invite them to do a little bit of their own written reflection. 
  3. Find a comprehensive way to organize and document what’s being shared. 
  4. Make it a regular part of business practices.

Knowledge transfer is important, and you need the right tools to facilitate it.

Using an engaging and easy-to-navigate knowledge base makes it simple for employees to continue to add to what you have so that knowledge transfer never stops.

Make information sharing a core part of your business playbook.

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Article

What Is Knowledge Transfer and Why Does Your Business Need It?

August 18, 2022

Jump to a section
Share it!
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You're all signed up! Look out for the next edition of The Manual Weekly coming Wednesday am!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Most of all, knowledge transfer systems can prevent you from losing company knowledge.Every company has veteran experts.

These folks have the most knowledge when it comes to routine SOPs, client relationships, and how to integrate robust pieces of the business.

Let’s call our hypothetical veteran “Sam.”

Sam’s been around longer than anyone can remember. Everyone loves Sam. Why? Because Sam has the answer to any question. They’re always willing to explain how things get done.

Then, tragedy strikes.

Sam is retiring, and they’ve just handed in their two weeks. They’ll leave with an encyclopedia’s worth of valuable information that’s provided answers to many of the company’s questions.

A teenager making a peace out sign before disappearing.

You should be celebrating retirement with Sam, not scrambling to figure out how the show will go on. What you need to do is get the encyclopedia living in Sam’s head into the hands of all of your employees.

How will you do this? By implementing a knowledge transfer system!

What is knowledge transfer?

Knowledge transfer is the process of transitioning critical information between different employees — like passing a torch. The senior members of your team share their insights and practical knowledge within the organization so nothing is ever lost.

Knowledge transfer is necessary for a number of reasons.

Let’s go back to Sam. Experts in your company (especially if they’ve been there for years or even decades) have experienced-based knowledge to share with others.

Without a system that promotes knowledge transfer, that valuable information leaves when they go. If you have your experts share this knowledge in an accessible way before you lose them, you’ll keep all of it within the company.

Losing team members isn’t the only reason you should create opportunities for knowledge transfer.

Maybe one of your employees is being promoted to manager. How is that employee going to operate at the same level as the previous one? Without a way of transferring knowledge, you could be setting up your new manager for failure.

There’s also restructuring to consider. Let’s say you’re getting rid of a department and allocating its resources — including team members — to another. By organizing their information beforehand, you can keep everyone in the loop, making for a smoother transition.

How can knowledge transfer help me?

Many businesses struggle with silos. These are cliquey formations that keep communication in small parts of your company rather than across departments.

Projects that involve cooperation between multiple departments often suffer from miscommunication and mixups because of these silos.

The best way to combat this is with a knowledge transfer system. It keeps knowledge consistent across your company, meaning everyone works together more efficiently.

Speaking of which, knowledge transfer systems can help you update your SOPs to streamline tasks.

For example, your employees’ practices may evolve, and they might find new ways to accomplish what they need to with more ease and efficiency than the existing SOP.

Having a system for them to share their insights allows you to capitalize on their ambition and recognize them for their hard work.

Most of all, knowledge transfer systems can prevent you from losing company knowledge.

This is the hidden knowledge that certain team members know, but which ensures that everyone performs well. Having a system in place so employees can collect this information means it will live on, even as your workforce changes.

Isn’t knowledge transfer just another name for onboarding?

Not exactly. But there is some overlap, and it can make onboarding a whole lot easier.

Onboarding is the process of getting new or transitioning employees up to speed. It’s how your company prepares team members to take on their new roles, and it’s important to get right. If onboarding programs aren’t sufficient enough, you risk losing those employees to disengagement or turnover.

This is where effective knowledge transfer comes into play.

By making it easy for experienced employees to share their knowledge with new ones, you’re creating opportunities for mentorship within your organization.

Mentorship in the onboarding process is proven to be the one of best ways for new employees to understand and contribute to their new roles.

Having a clear and efficient knowledge transfer system also means new hires can get started quickly, making them feel like productive and valuable team members.

An effective knowledge transfer system means that your less experienced team members will have access to the valuable insight of seasoned experts, whether they get to mentor with them or not.

Doesn’t knowledge transfer happen on its own?

Some of it does, but you want to make sure that you have a thorough way to capture what slips through the cracks.

Knowledge sharing is going to happen organically through collaboration, mentorship, and daily interactions.

However, think back to the “Sam” situation from earlier.

Without a formal system in place, you risk losing a lot. When you lose experienced employees, you lose the value that they offer, including years of practical experience and relationship building.

Losing someone valuable shouldn’t put a full stop to your operations. Putting formal systems in place ensures that knowledge transfer happens while they’re still around, allowing you to avoid those sticky situations.

It’s not to say that new employees are incompetent. In fact, they have a ton of potential — including fluency in the digital sphere. All that’s missing is a little experience. A formal knowledge transfer system means you can take full advantage of that potential while they acclimate to their new roles.

A mother with her daughter and saying, "So this is what people did before the Internet."

Not sure how to start? Let’s go through some ways you can implement a knowledge transfer system that works.

How can I make knowledge transfer a part of my business?

1. Find out where your company knowledge is.

The first step to creating a knowledge transfer system is to figure out who your Sams are.

Look at your company and identify your top performers and experts. Identify their best attributes and figure out what they excel at.

Then, give them the opportunities to share their expertise. Make them mentors to your new employees, have them facilitate meetings where their knowledge lies, and give them formal processes for sharing what they know.

Getting your experts to contribute their niche experience shows them that you value what they do while facilitating knowledge transfer.

Identifying the company knowledge that senior employees have can help you share that information with everyone else. This means everyone has access to the information that helps them perform best.

2. Encourage knowledge sharing.

Ideally, knowledge sharing is already a part of your company culture.

It may happen organically in those departmental silos we mentioned, but the goal is to make it an organization-wide practice. Encourage everyone to share what they know with one another by making it a company-wide expectation.

A woman making a heart shape with her hands and saying, "Sharing is caring."

You can do so by making space for employees to share knowledge through:

  • Team or department meetings.
  • Emails. 
  • Designated channels of communication. 
  • A good old-fashioned suggestion box.

There’s no harm in offering incentives for sharing knowledge or proposing ideas! If employees stand to gain from sharing their knowledge with others, they’re more likely to do so.

Encouraging your employees to share knowledge is great, but it’s not authentic unless leaders model the behavior as well.

3. Make documenting knowledge a regular part of your business practices.

One of the biggest challenges of knowledge sharing is implementing a formal system for documenting that knowledge. Making knowledge transfer a part of your business practices is the best way to ensure information is never lost.

One way to get in the habit of documenting what’s important is by creating a knowledge base that all employees can access. This includes a company wiki, where your company can organize company knowledge, policies, and SOPs in one platform.

There are many tools you can use to make documenting knowledge easy. Trainual, for example, offers templates that make documenting hidden knowledge easy.

4. Use knowledge transfer to get results.

Knowledge transfer levels the playing field for your employees.

The more you facilitate knowledge transfer within your organization, the better your results. Offering ways for employees to develop their skills means they can perform alongside your top talent.

Again, to take advantage of the skills that new employees bring to the table, they’ll need access to the information needed to apply those skills. This way, you can avoid a total halt in operations and get the newbies up to speed sooner.

You might be losing Sam, but you don’t need to lose what Sam knows.

Making knowledge transfer a part of your company culture is the best way to keep knowledge consistent and continue scaling your business.

Ready to start?

Documenting knowledge doesn’t have to be hard and the practice is easy to maintain once you get started.

Here’s how you can get the ball rolling:

  1. Gather your experts someplace that they can share what they know.
  2. Ask them to tell you about their area of expertise. You can take notes or invite them to do a little bit of their own written reflection. 
  3. Find a comprehensive way to organize and document what’s being shared. 
  4. Make it a regular part of business practices.

Knowledge transfer is important, and you need the right tools to facilitate it.

Using an engaging and easy-to-navigate knowledge base makes it simple for employees to continue to add to what you have so that knowledge transfer never stops.

Make information sharing a core part of your business playbook.

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What Is Knowledge Transfer and Why Does Your Business Need It?

August 18, 2022

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