In 1597 Sir Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge itself is power.” People around the world have stated this axiom for centuries, and it has been proven to be true time and time again. However, many, many companies do not apply this idea to their business. They allow institutional knowledge and specialized skills to walk out the door every time an employee leaves.
Additionally, business owners and executives often hold onto specialized knowledge that would benefit other team members if they wrote down and organized this information.
When Knowledge Transfer is Essential
There are three major times in any business during which knowledge transfer is particularly crucial:
1. When the business is in transition
If the owner is planning to sell the company or wants to transfer the day-to-day running of the business to a trusted executive, it is vital that all of the pertinent knowledge about the company is recorded and provided to those who need the information.
2. During or before a period of growth
A business cannot scale and grow without an established base of knowledge. If you do not provide a knowledge transfer system before or during scaling, the executives and leads will be constantly swamped with questions and consistently stepping in to do a team member’s job.
3. When establishing a training system
Training employees for new positions is extremely difficult without an effective knowledge transfer system. Trainers or leads will constantly be repeating themselves and answering questions, making the training time take longer.
Where Knowledge Transfers Fail
Businesses often think they have a knowledge transfer system of some kind in place. The business owner may have written down steps for accomplishing various jobs throughout the company and filed them in a binder. A fastidious assistant may have scanned all of the job descriptions and notes from a busy executive into a folder that lives on a hard drive somewhere.
Unfortunately, without the “transfer” part of knowledge transfer, the system does not work. This is one of the major ways that knowledge transfer systems fail.
Five Keys to Effective Knowledge Transfer Systems
There is a lot that goes into effectively transferring knowledge from one person to another. As you begin to examine your existing systems or decide to create a new system, consider the following five fundamentals.
1. Set up a formal process
One component of an effective system is that it is repeatable. By formalizing knowledge transfer, you are ensuring that your employees will continue to impart their institutional knowledge in a standardized way.
2. Make the knowledge transfer process a habit
The last thing we, as consultants, want is for our team to come in, set up a process, and then have no one use it after we leave. That’s why we focus on making the knowledge transfer process a habit for any company with which we work. By training the entire team on the system and ensuring knowledge transfer procedures are followed consistently, we help put a habit in place that becomes ingrained in the company culture.
3. Use an accessible system
Putting task lists and “how-tos” in a binder won’t cut it anymore. Any knowledge system needs to be backed up, searchable, and accessible so that anyone in your company can train on your processes and procedures.
4. Take time to get it right
When putting a system in place, it’s important to work out any kinks and find any bugs early on. This comes down to running through the knowledge transfer process, having employees accomplish tasks based on their training, documenting questions, and then ensuring the system evolves.
5. Train staff on the process as soon as they come on board
If you are determined to ensure that effective knowledge transfer is part of the company culture, then it’s crucial to train staff during onboarding. They can start on the right foot, establishing the habits needed to secure the success of the company.
Ultimately, effective knowledge transfer systems ensure continuity, help to cement the business owner’s legacy, and create happier employees. Contact Business Success Consulting Group if you are ready to develop a practical knowledge transfer system in your business.
Contributed by Adi Klevit