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Can Technology Help with Knowledge Transfer?

Author: Dave Rietsema - Matchr CEO

No matter how low your company’s turnover rate is, you’ll eventually have to face employees leaving. Some employees may find better offers elsewhere. Others may change departments within your organization. Others will retire. It’s important to have a plan for transferring what your experienced employees know to newer employees. This can help preserve their experience and knowledge within the company. Plus, whether experienced employees are preparing to leave or not, their knowledge will benefit new hires.

Having a knowledge transfer plan in place can help ensure that valuable knowledge stays within your company, rather than employees taking it with them when they leave or retire.

What Is Knowledge Transfer?

Knowledge transfer is the process of storing information that your employees know and transferring it to new employees and across the organization. This stored knowledge can be used to train new employees as well as prepare existing employees for transitioning to new roles within your company. Having a plan for the transfer of knowledge can also help ensure that no valuable information is lost if an employee leaves or retires.

What Knowledge Transfer Is Not

Knowledge transfer is not just training. Although a knowledge transfer strategy can be used for training, knowledge transfer is more geared towards harnessing the personal experiences and skills of your experienced employees. Knowledge transfer is more about identifying the skills and knowledge of employees and applying that information than it is about simply training or circulating data.

What Are the Uses for Knowledge?

The knowledge stored as part of the knowledge transfer process has many uses for companies. Although knowledge transfer isn’t just training, the information gained from the process can be used in training. It can also be used for preparing employees for promotions. Knowledge transfer can also help all departments work more efficiently because they can work together more effectively.

How Can Knowledge Transfer Help in the Workplace?

Knowledge transfer offers many benefits for an organization. An efficient knowledge transfer plan can help disseminate necessary information more quickly across your entire company. Knowledge can be more quickly shared between departments and between employees. Knowledge transfer plans also help cultivate a culture of sharing knowledge. Employees will be more willing to share their knowledge and experience with each other. On top of that, the knowledge transferred to each individual can be personalized for their job and career goals at your company.

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.

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 is interesting and user friendly
  • Utilizing one repository for information that is constantly updated
  • Reviewing knowledge transfer practices regularly and updating or changing as needed

How to Transfer Knowledge Effectively

Effectively transferring knowledge has many benefits for an organization. Failing to transfer knowledge can hinder employees from doing their jobs productively. But how do you effectively transfer knowledge?

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 teamwork projects
  • Availability of chat, forum, or other social functions
  • Video training guides
  • Practice simulation
  • Guided experimentation

Cultivate the Knowledge to Transfer

Step one in any knowledge transfer plan is to collect the knowledge that you’ll want to transfer. This knowledge can be gathered through brainstorming ideas, seeking solutions to problems within the company, coaching, inviting input from employees, and then documenting the ideas that come up.

Types of Knowledge That Can Be Transferred

In the workplace, there are two different types of knowledge: explicit and tacit. Explicit knowledge is easy to share either through writing or through speaking. Tacit knowledge, on the other hand, is more difficult. Tacit knowledge is the knowledge that employees develop over time through experience. It’s their insights and observations gathered over time. Explicit knowledge can be more easily shared through training, while tacit knowledge may require working together or a mentorship program to transfer to new employees.

Store the Knowledge Transferred

Once you have cultivated the knowledge you want to transfer, it’s important to store that knowledge somewhere that will be easy to access. This means investing in something a bit more robust than simply using Google Drive. Making the knowledge easily available and readily accessible should be a primary focus. A complete knowledge base can store both explicit and tacit knowledge. This knowledge can be stored in something like a document library or knowledge portal for easy access. A HRIS can be a useful tool for creating such a knowledge base.

Share the Knowledge

Once you have the relevant knowledge stored in an easily accessible place, it’s time to start sharing it. This step of the process should include a plan for how, when, and to whom knowledge needs to be transferred. It may be a good idea to create a document outlining the process so that it can be followed and then tweaked as needed. Communication is also an essential part of this process. Employees who are learning from the knowledge transfer process may have questions and should have easy access to someone who can provide explanations.

Apply the Knowledge

Once employees have the new knowledge in their toolkits, it’s time to use it. You can use a HRIS to track tasks and then measure the effectiveness of the knowledge transfer process. The software can track task progress and break down tasks into smaller pieces. By measuring the progress of tasks and problems, you can measure the efficacy of the knowledge transfer.

Start the Process Again

The knowledge transfer process doesn’t end. Once employees have the knowledge that already exists in your knowledge database, it’s time to start the process of cultivating knowledge again. This may involve returning to experienced employees to gather more of their knowledge. It may also involve developing new products or services. It’s important to continue innovating and adding to what exists in your knowledge base to continue to improve both your employees and your company as a whole.

Using Technology in Knowledge Transfer

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.

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.

Are you looking for a HRIS to manage knowledge transfer and a knowledge base for your company? We can help match you with the right software vendor. Stop by our Software Match page to begin your search today.

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