DAVE ANDERSON | 4 MIN READ
Losing a valuable employee hurts in more ways than one. You of course have to go through the process of hiring and training a replacement. But the subtraction of knowledge and wisdom from your workforce is often the bigger setback.
Most employers train replacements on the basics of the job but not enough pass along the lessons learned by the predecessor. And how could they? That information left with the former employee on their last day.
By being proactive, you can capture an individual employee’s knowledge and share it with everyone else who can benefit from it. That not only includes the person who will take over their job in the future but also current employees in other roles who can apply that know-how to the work they do.
Let’s explore how your organization can capture employee knowledge and transfer it to the wider team.
Identify current sources of knowledge
The first step is to identify the people on your staff who are sources of important information. Tapping into the knowledge possessed by the following types of employees is an ideal starting point:
- Employees in specialists positions – Specialists are experts in what they do and can provide in-depth explanations on specific topics.
- Longest-tenured employees – Employees who have been with your organization the longest have learned valuable lessons through their experience.
- Top performers – Team members who consistently exceed expectations know all the little things it takes to be successful.
- Autonomous employees outside of specific teams – Employees who work independently are the sole source of information related to their jobs.
- Team leaders – Managers and leadership understand strategy and can share why your organization does certain things the way it does.
- Employees with close customer relationships – Customer-facing employees can teach others how to form close bonds with the people your organization serves.
While these types of employees are excellent sources of information, be sure you don’t overlook others on your staff. Start with these groups, then expand your process to include the entire workforce. You might be surprised by who has a little gem of wisdom they can pass along.
How to capture and transfer employee knowledge
Determining team members with valuable expertise is easy. The challenge is extracting their knowledge and making it easily consumable for the people who will benefit from learning it. Here are tips for transferring information between employees:
- Document processes as they happen – Encourage employees to document how they carry out the procedures they do regularly. Writing steps out is fine but a video recording is often a better medium for sharing information.
- Create an internal resources library – As processes are documented, upload the completed resource to a cloud-based library that is accessible and searchable by everyone on staff. After all, these documents and videos aren’t helpful unless they’re distributed to others.
- Host informal training sessions – Allow employees to present on high-level topics or projects their team is working on. These sessions give your staff insight into how other departments operate.
- Form a structured training program – While learning little things here and there is helpful, an end-to-end training program ensures a complete transfer of job knowledge. You teach new hires or current team members everything they need to know to start in a new role.
While the points above aid in learning, the best thing you can do is encourage an organic transfer of knowledge among your workforce. Strive to have an inclusive workplace where people feel comfortable asking questions about how things are done and their colleagues take the time to give a thoughtful explanation.
Prepare for the future with succession planning
Even if your organization is a great place to work, the reality is that people move on from jobs all the time. It’s always a good idea to determine who on your staff is a suitable candidate to take over your most important positions.
You can identify the employees who have the right combination of success in their current role and leadership potential by going through the process of succession planning. You can then teach your next generation of leaders what they need to know to prepare for their future promotion. In addition to encouraging these employees to participate in your internal training program, here are a few tips for assisting them in their preparation:
- Job shadowing – Schedule a day for the employee to spend with the person they’ll one day succeed so they learn the ins and outs of the job.
- Mentorship – Pair junior employees with experienced leaders who can share the lessons they learned throughout their career.
- Gradually increase responsibility – On-the-job experience is one of the best ways to learn so consider slowly transitioning the employee into their future job.
While you never want to see a talented employee go, you should always be prepared for any scenario. A smart approach to knowledge capture and transfer ensures your organization won’t miss a beat when an employee moves on.