Now it is time to bookend this knowledge transfer strategy blog series and talk about next steps.
At a Glance, Here Is Our Knowledge Transfer Strategy Template:
I. Frame the Talent Problem
II. Provide Historical Context
III. Set Expectations for Knowledge Transfer in Your Organization in 1 -3 Years, Including Clarifying Guideposts
IV. Provide a Cost-Benefit Analysis
V. Give a Basic Implementation Timeline and Define Key Roles
VI. Identify & Mitigate Implementation Risks
With these elements in your strategic plan for knowledge transfer, your organization can take the time to align your executives on how knowledge transfer will dovetail with and support your talent management activities in the future. The strategy will also provide guiding principles as you implement your knowledge transfer and incorporate more stakeholders, participants, and practitioners. Just today, a global client who worked out their knowledge transfer strategy almost a year ago used it to rein in a renegade offshoot of the program. It wasn’t that the energy and enthusiasm wasn’t welcome, it is just that if left unchecked, this offshoot could have diluted the focus on results that the KT Sponsor has seen to this point. “...We have launched two mentoring programs in the last six years and neither has been sustained. Many people remember that. Sticking to our strategy will keep knowledge transfer from suffering a similar fate.”
The Form Factor of Your Knowledge Transfer Strategy Document
Does your knowledge transfer strategy need to be a separate document? No. In fact, it might be easier to ignore if it is standing alone. And, it might be less politically palatable if it gets called out as “another” strategy. Instead, it may well be an addendum to any of your existing strategy documents, e.g. business, operational, branding, overall talent management, etc. Strategies are really change manifestos; they say what you’re going to look like in the future. We are almost never static. And, if there is change, there is almost always a need for knowledge transfer. So your knowledge transfer strategy could attach to any strategic document—such as your new business strategy and the knowledge transfer needed to support that.
Why a Having Knowledge Transfer Strategy Is Worth It
Everyone knows that people learn their jobs by being on the job. A data point that research has upheld time and again, in any industry or job role, is that about 70% of what it takes to do your job you pick up from being on the job, regardless of the formal training or schooling you receive. Learning professionals call this the 70-20-10 Rule, because an employee’s remaining 20% of learning comes from their formal training/education, and 10% comes from other sources. Setting a knowledge transfer strategy can ensure focused support of the work that is already being done or needs to be done to make on-the-job learning faster, easier, and more reliable.
A good knowledge transfer program has been proven to reduce employee learning time by typically 50%. There’s just no good business reason why learning should take twice as long.
This is the obvious argument for knowledge transfer, but there’s more reason that just this.
Executives can’t get the consistency they want in a job role if no one knows which employee is the standard bearer—the expert—clarifying the right way to perform certain work that others should follow. You can’t have high productivity if people don’t understand their job because they don’t have the skills and standards that are expected of them and necessary for success. You can’t have collaboration among employees if people don’t know who’s following whom. You can’t have workers make good choices if they don’t understand the big picture of the organization and how their role fits in.
And, you can’t preserve your secret sauce—critical unique knowledge—if you don’t know who has it, where it’s siloed, and when it’s about to walk out the door and leave your organization for good. Status quo, ad-hoc knowledge transfer does little to prevent the loss of your business’s unique knowledge and your years of investment in your experienced employees. And once lost, it will take years, maybe decades, to get back.
The problem we’re trying to solve is clear: people teach people. Let’s do it better. A knowledge transfer strategy is designed to make sure that happens with all of the executive input, support, and guidance possible so that we have the best shot at being successful over the long run.
To wrap up, I’d like to leave you with some questions we’re chewing on here at my consulting company, identify some trends, and make a few predictions:
- What is your current knowledge transfer strategy? If you’re working with the default strategy of “Let them figure it out on their own,” what are the consequences?
- Who pays for the challenges that pop up in the absence of clear executive guidance on this topic? Your best employees? Your customers? Your new employees?
- What transitions and related talent planning exercises are on the horizon for your organization where a knowledge transfer strategy might smooth the transition, reduce costs, and keep people happier?
- Today’s IT divisions are looking to reduce costs, balance their global talent footprint, and onboard the next generation of workers—all while keeping any legacy systems stable until they can be replaced. These are big transitions that are begging for a clear knowledge transfer strategy to guide the experts while they navigate the rough waters. Look for well-planned knowledge transfer to become even more important to IT departments.
- The economy is picking up and the first sign of that is hiring contingent workers who can be easily released if the economy sputters again. These workers will be transient by nature and so the cost of onboarding them and then preparing for their departure cannot be ignored. They should be carefully considered in a knowledge transfer strategy.
- Many retiring boomers are coming back as contractors. Organizations that see this as a relief valve that will last forever do so at their own peril. These workers are invaluable players but should not be left to work without guidance. A knowledge transfer strategy can help clarify their short term and long term value to the organization, and how you will use them best.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION: Now, let’s hear from you. I encourage you to give feedback on our ideas here, and to say what you are thinking and doing in this area. We can all benefit from the wisdom of the knowledge transfer community.
Lastly, don’t forget to sign up to receive our new white paper that will be published in a few weeks and will bring all these strategy ideas together.