Raise your hand if you have ever been in a position where you had to learn something new—whether at a new job, taking on a hobby, or navigating the newest Apple product—but were given limited information or help. You were probably thinking to yourself, “how do they expect me to do this?” You aren’t alone.
A Gallup survey showed that many organizations lack a formal knowledge transfer process. Knowledge transfer is the process of sharing and storing institutional operating procedures and best practices to ensure information is accessible and cascaded across different areas or people in your business. Without a proper knowledge transfer system, miscommunication, errors, increased time and costs are likely—which can harm your business and frustrate your employees.
Effective knowledge transfer is critical for onboarding and offboarding employees. It is especially critical for heavily matrixed organizations. As an integrated communications agency, Stratacomm is not immune. Knowledge transfer is essential for our team due to the level of interdepartmental collaboration required to support our clients—from project management, PR, digital, paid media, advertising, research, creative and more.
How to Build a Knowledge Transfer System
So, if you are looking for great cross-functional team alignment, where do you start? The five steps below can help you build an exceptional knowledge transfer system.
1. Identify Knowledge Gaps
Like many first steps, this one can be the most challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. You just need to be thorough. Begin by asking questions:
- What are important processes within my organization, department or project?
- What are tasks only one person knows how to do?
- What are the goals for this knowledge transfer system? Is it to decrease onboarding time? Improve time fulfilling a task?
Once you answer these questions, you can form a list of people and tasks and begin to capture that knowledge.
2. Capture Knowledge
Effective knowledge capturing goes beyond the basic information exchange of facts and data (explicit knowledge). Valuable and complete knowledge also includes tacit knowledge which is less often recorded or shared. Tacit knowledge is usually formed by someone’s unique experiences and observations, whether kinks or job hacks.
Using questionnaires, step-by-step instructions and job shadowing are some examples of capturing both the facts and the nuances. For efficiency, your knowledge transfer system should be able to be easily copied, updated and easy to understand.
3. Transfer and Share Knowledge
Having a system that clearly states how knowledge is shared is key. Sharing can be as simple as using a shared drive or available knowledge transfer tools such as Asana. Knowledge sharing shouldn’t be limited to documents. It can also include simulations, e-learning and mentorship.
Ensuring layman’s terms are available somewhere in your system is helpful for newcomers, as well as including tips from specific experiences that can help give more context.
4. Apply Knowledge and Evaluate
Once knowledge is collected, it’s time to apply it. It’s important to evaluate what worked well in the knowledge transfer system used and what could be improved for future use.
5. Create New Knowledge
Now that your knowledge has been applied for some time, new nuances or processes may occur. Maybe your new employee found a new way to do something, woohoo! Having a plan to revisit your knowledge transfer system and documents is critical to ensure the information is always up to date.
An exceptional knowledge transfer system helps with work efficiencies, but it can also improve communication, quality of service, standardization and your overall company culture. It’s well worth the time invested, paying dividends throughout your organization.
Agatha Aramayo is an Account Director based in Washington D.C. who works with federal government and commercial client accounts. Having previously worked in communications for talent development, she is passionate about fostering positive and efficient work experiences.