Don't Stop Thinkin' About Tomorrow
As more and more people prepare to exit the workforce, many organizations find themselves at risk of losing the unique knowledge possessed by those who are retiring (or leaving for any reason). Knowledge transfer, or the process of communicating knowledge that has been developed by one member of an organization to other members of the organization, is important to the future success and longevity of any company. It also ensures that remaining team members or next generation workers at the organization obtain the knowledge they need to move forward successfully.
The next time you're faced with the impending retirement (or exit) of a key team member, try using these 3 techniques to effectively capture and transfer their knowledge:
- Hold structured "download" meetings. Download meetings are important for capturing explicit knowledge - knowledge that can be described using formal language, print or electronic media, often based on established work processes. These meetings should aim to capture knowledge such as access codes to important systems, e-mails that need to be followed up on or documents that need to be read and/or filed.
- Set up opportunities for on-the-job shadowing. Job shadowing is important for capturing tacit knowledge - practical, action-oriented knowledge, usually based on practice and acquired by personal experience. Shadowing the exiting team member will allow other members of the team to gain knowledge that can't be easily expressed through words or numbers, such as the way to interact with an important client, or the way to handle difficult employees gracefully.
- Keep avenues of communication open. Before your team member leaves, ask her if she would be willing to remain available to offer guidance if an emergency presents itself. This will help create a kind of safety net during the transition and turn a former team member into a potential advocate for your organization.