Knowledge transfer refers to the systems used by a company to spread knowledge from one part of an organization to another. Knowledge transfer is most critical when new employees have been hired or when internal aspects of an organization have changed. Having an effective system for knowledge transfer in place can help organizations to continue to survive and thrive after older employees retire and systems are updated. This is especially crucial as the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age, as many organizations are beginning to see scores of employees retire. Using technology may help companies to simplify knowledge transfer processes.
Knowledge Transfer Methods
There are numerous ways that knowledge can be transferred within an organization. Depending on the organization, some methods may be more effective than others. Most organizations utilize some type of coaching or mentoring program to facilitate knowledge transfer and ensure its success. While this is often cited as the most effective means of knowledge transfer, it is not always possible to overlap new employees with older employees.
Other practices that are often used to facilitate knowledge transfer include:
- Creation and use of short reference guides
- Compilation of a large resource library
- Online or computer training programs
- Assignment of team work projects
- Availability of chat, forum, or other social functions
- Video training guides
- Practice simulation
- Guided experimentation
Knowledge Transfer Challenges
The biggest challenges to effective knowledge transfer are a lack of resources and the lack of a formalized transfer approach. Organizations often feel that there are not enough employee hours to dedicate to knowledge transfer and that there is not enough money in the budget to dedicate to developing a formalized knowledge transfer approach. However, failing to dedicate ample resources to knowledge transfer may result in the decline of the company once knowledgeable employees retire.
Using Technology for Knowledge Transfer
Technology can make knowledge transfer much easier. Using technology, employees can learn and be taught on a much more flexible schedule. While acquiring an appropriate information system can be costly, the system can help to increase the efficiency of the organization’s knowledge transfer, which can improve operations and eventually revenues. Having an information system in place can also help keep all information organized, current, and relevant. When technology is used to facilitate knowledge transfer, geographic barriers are also eliminated and it is easier to attain consistency across the organization, no matter how far apart company locations may be.
Knowledge Transfer Best Practices
While technology can be very helpful in fostering effective knowledge transfer, it is important to follow best practices and use technology to increase the ease of knowledge transfer. Simply relying on an acquired software program without making efforts to ensure that knowledge transfer systems are successful will ordinarily not be effective. This can waste a tremendous amount of time and money without improving the company’s knowledge transfer methods.
Some of the most commonly cited best practices for effective knowledge transfer include:
- Starting peer to peer training, especially between senior employees and new trainees
- Developing a formalized knowledge transfer system and using it daily
- Delivering content in a format that it interesting and user friendly
- Utilizing one repository for information that is constantly updated
- Reviewing knowledge transfer practices regularly and updating or changing as needed