Leonard-Barton Group and co-author of Critical Knowledge
Transfer: Tools for Managing Your Company’s Deep Smarts. Because
it’s experience-based, much of the knowledge is undocumented.
That means the departing employees take their skills and abilities
with them, along with their knowledge of relationships, company
history, products, services and more.
“If that knowledge isn’t preserved, you’re risking a lack of
business continuity – and in some cases, that’s a very big risk,”
With disruptions to continuity, efficiency and productivity can
take a hit, too.
“This could happen within a co-located team or we often see
it at the global level where people around the world share work
and have problems like missing deadlines, re-work or battles over
the ‘right’ way to do a job,” said Steve Trautman, president of the
Steve Trautman Co. and author of Do You Have Who It Takes?
Managing Talent Risk in a High-Stakes Talent Workforce.
BE STRATEGIC AND SELECTIVE
Organizations can avoid both panic and a misuse of time by being
targeted about exactly what knowledge needs to be transferred.
“Say there’s someone named Joe in your organization,” said
Trautman. “There can be this general sense that we don’t really
know what Joe does, but we’re pretty sure if he leaves, we’re all
going to die.” Rather than asking how a successor might step in
and learn every single thing that Joe knows, Trautman proposes
being a lot more discerning.
“What is the actual value of Joe’s institutional knowledge?” said
Trautman. “What if transferring all of his knowledge is actually
counter-productive and will even hold you back?”
Instead, Trautman proposes reframing the question in terms of
“talent risk” assessed by determining the risk of not having the tal-ent
to execute a particular business strategy.
“Losing a long-tenured employee might be catastrophic but it
also might not be,” he said.
It all depends, he says, on the relationship between the capacity
of the person stepping into the role and the ability of the organiza-tion
to deliver on what it needs to.
“One of the most important elements of knowledge transfer is
to be selective, even surgical about the institutional knowledge that
is retained so that it’s all about helping the future come to fruition
faster.” In other words, take only what you need. “Don’t transfer
knowledge on old or bad habits, for example,” said Trautman.
Be critical, too, of which individuals most require the time and
effort involved in knowledge transfer. After all, no organization is
made up exclusively of superstars.
“You have to figure out who in the organization has the deep
smarts that are essential to the company,” said Leonard.
lightwise / 123RF Stock Photo
ORGANIZATIONS CAN AVOID
BOTH PANIC AND A MISUSE OF
TIME BY BEING TARGETED ABOUT
EXACTLY WHAT KNOWLEDGE
NEEDS TO BE TRANSFERRED.
16 ❚ JUNE 2018 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL