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Monday, August 23, 2010

Knowledge is power...before it walks!

According to recent research from the Manpower group of companies, employers and employees are not in sync when it comes to company loyalty in the coming year. Employers may be the ones to pay the price for this disparity when employees – the keepers of their organizational knowledge – walk out the door.

So it’s important to identify critical knowledge and make sure all that information doesn’t sit with just a few key people. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon, especially given reduced workforces. When someone leaves, you run the risk of being left high and dry. Knowledge transfer seeks to organize, create, capture or distribute knowledge and ensure its availability for future users. It's more than just a communication problem. If it was merely that, then a memo, an e-mail or meeting would accomplish the knowledge transfer.

You can approach knowledge retention and transfer strategy from many angles. Some companies carefully document job roles. Some identify employees who have been cross-trained and can fill in when employees leave. Others use succession planning strategies to identify critical positions and key performers who can be developed for leadership roles. All of these are good strategies that should be implemented to ensure a smooth transition when turnover occurs.

The solution lies in creating processes that foster and enable the transfer of knowledge. This starts with identifying the knowledge holders within the organization, motivating them to share, and then designing a sharing mechanism to facilitate the transfer and application of that knoweldge. Common practices include teaming, pairing or shadowing on assingments, mentoring, and literal narrative transfers. For more ideas, review this list of suggested knowledge transfer strategies.

Every phase of the employee life cycle — from the time an employee is recruited and on-boarded to long-term retention and eventually to promotion or exit — presents an opportunity to share knowledge. There are many advantages for employers who are aware of the importance of protecting institutional knowledge. It helps new employees to become productive more quickly. It leverages developmental investments within the organization. And when executed successfully, it can create a competitive edge.

However you approach it, transferring knowledge is a complex workforce management process because knowledge resides within people. The trick is to harness, leverage and share knowledge to not only protect your investments, but elevate strategy execution and enhance business performance.

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