A structured knowledge transfer program intentionally moves critical knowledge and skills from employee to employee on the job. One marker of a good knowledge transfer program is versatility—the process should work in all types of business environments. For example, my knowledge transfer consulting firm was recently asked this question by a potential client:
How might your 3-step knowledge transfer process work with a firm that runs on billable hours to their clients? Making time to train people and/or transfer knowledge is a challenge.
This is great question and one many employers face. Lots of companies unknowingly choose to make knowledge transfer the employees’ problem, because many organizations’ utilization and compensation models actively inhibit their experts from spending time sharing their knowledge and experience internally (e.g. employees who work on 100% billable hours; bonus plans tied only to short-sighted goals).
Here’s how I responded:
We have many clients with utilization issues. We work with these clients to prioritize their talent risks and build an overhead budget that can be drawn on when an employee needs training. Not every training hour has to hit the overhead budget, of course, but when employees are expected to do ALL of their knowledge transfer hours on their own time (unbillable), it sends the message that developing new skills and/or taking time to train a co-worker is not a company priority.
Since knowledge transfer for any job role can be easily scheduled and tracked by the hour, we can ensure that every hour billed to overhead is targeted to measurably reduce a team’s talent risk. The ROI is also clear because each hour employees are learning skills that make them billable faster or at least reduce the cost of non-quality (mistakes due to lack of knowledge).
As a side note, I was just on the phone with a client in Paris this morning. They started our knowledge transfer process nearly three years ago. Mentors and apprentices are spread among more than 20 countries and doing very technical work. Our process had been popular within the client all along, but in my opinion it took far too long to pay real benefits. We could have had valuable, measurable results from the beginning, but the client—who operates on billable hours—did not want to budget knowledge transfer into their overhead as recommended. The client switched this course after a year of lackluster results. Now that they are meeting their employees part way in paying for their time spent transferring knowledge, the results are going gangbusters.
I can set up a call to tell you more about it if you like. Just let me know.
SUMMARY: If your organization operates on billable hours and you’ve been wondering if knowledge transfer could be a viable talent risk management option for you—it can. Success lies in taking all or a portion of the burden off your employees by budgeting hours for knowledge transfer into your overhead. Here are two blog entries that explain this in more detail: Who Pays for your Knowledge Transfer? and Why Have a Knowledge Transfer Strategy?