Over the past two decades doing talent risk management and knowledge transfer work, I’ve discovered a recurring problem many organizations face in their quest for innovation. They recognize the need to hire new people to bring in their ideas, but too often, those hotshots fizzle out before they are able to make an impact. You’ve heard the phrase, “The road to hell is littered with good intentions”? Well, the hell these new hires face is often a political one. “He had such great ideas, but they just didn’t seem to get any traction in our culture…”
In a previous blog, we talked about how we can use knowledge transfer to mitigate talent risk by creating an ecosystem of experts who can provide backup for a departing executive. I mentioned that one of our clients was preparing to replace a retiring executive. They had identified his
We helped a client with a big insight this week that I wanted to share. This client of our knowledge transfer firm is undertaking a big IT transition, moving support work from one part of the organization to another. This is knowledge transfer in the midst of change management. In some instances, the workers will be moved along with the work, but in many instances the workers will take on new roles and the transitioned support work will be done by a new team, some of whom are outsource partners.
Simultaneously, the need for the support work is in flux. Some of the applications will be shut down in the next six months. Others will have their “Tier 1 and 2” (basic) support done by the new team and “Tier 3 and 4” (complex) support done by the existing team. Oh, and there are several different executives (and budgets) leading these various teams.
Recently, a client of my knowledge transfer consulting firm was expressing his frustration with having to routinely fly his division’s experienced technical employees out to other domestic offices, off-shore, or to outsource partner locations to train new hires and solve technical problems. “It is the only way,” the CTO said, "to ensure that hands-on, business-critical knowledge gets transferred." So I asked him a few simple questions:
ME: Who goes on these trips?
CLIENT: Well, there’s no standard. We tend to send whoever is willing to go and can get away.
ME: How long do they typically stay there, away from their other daily work?
CLIENT: As long as they can handle it.
How do you recognize and reward successful knowledge transfer? Over the years we’ve seen managers get pretty creative in how they publicly celebrate mentors and apprentices for their achievements together: awards, events, gifts—you name it.
Not only can these programs be fun, but good managers understand that recognition also serves a critical function: helping to drive measurable results and embed knowledge transfer in your culture.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT PROGRAM
Choosing the right way
We’ve detailed how to use Emergency Knowledge Transfer (EKT) to mitigate talent risks in previous posts. My knowledge transfer team recently helped a client facing the challenge of the unexpected resignation of a business-critical expert, and the story of how the EKT process unfolded is a lesson in management’s ability to achieve quick, clear, and measurable reduction of the risk of critical knowledge loss.
Our client, a global provider of automation and information solutions, had learned that one of their key employees was giving his 30-day notice.