“Here’s my two-week notice.” “I’m retiring” “I’m moving away!”
Familiar phrases business owners of all caliber (unfortunately) are used to hearing.
Life happens and people come and go, that’s natural and inevitable. This means your business should be equipped and designed to handle when life does happens, because it always does.
So imagine this: A beloved long-term employee is finally retiring, they have always been a star employee and knows your business almost as well as you do. This employee’s tenure and wealth of knowledge is undoubtedly the combination of the employee’s merits and your leadership. But what happens now?
Instead of celebrating a well-deserved retirement, you’re scrambling to figure out how the show will go on. What you need to do is get the encyclopedia living in this employee’s head into the hands of all of your employees.
Cue – implementing a knowledge transfer system!
So…what is knowledge transfer?
Knowledge transfer is an imperative and necessary part of any successful, well-oiled business. It is the process of transitioning critical information between different employees — like passing a torch. The senior members of your team share their insights and practical knowledge within the organisation so nothing is ever lost.
Knowledge transfer is the answer to all your worries. Want to go on holiday without worrying if your business is okay? Knowledge transfer. What is the proper safety protocol when handling an incident? Knowledge transfer. Where’s the closest coffee shop? Knowledge transfer.
Keep knowledge consistent across your company, meaning everyone works together more efficiently.
An effective knowledge transfer system means that if your employees never have to worry about many grey areas when approaching any tasks or duties and that less experienced team members will have access to the valuable insight of seasoned experts, whether they get to mentor them or not. To streamline the process and lessen the chance of miscommunication, always try to make knowledge consistent. This can be done via refresher training of the company’s SOPs, visual aids (in person or online) or easy access to the company’s intranet that contains this knowledge.
Encourage knowledge sharing.
Ideally, knowledge sharing is already a part of your company culture. If that is not the case, it is your responsibility or your appointed GM to create a safe space for sharing and collaborating.
Encourage everyone to share what they know with one another by making it a company-wide expectation.
You can do so by making space for employees to share knowledge through:
- Team or department meetings.
- Designated channels of communication.
- A good old-fashioned suggestion box.
There’s no harm in offering incentives for sharing knowledge or proposing ideas! If employees stand to gain from sharing their knowledge with others, they’re more likely to do so.
Encouraging your employees to share knowledge is great, but it’s not authentic unless leaders model the behavior as well.
Make documenting knowledge a regular part of your business practices.
One of the biggest challenges of knowledge sharing is implementing a formal system for documenting that knowledge. Making knowledge transfer a part of your business practices is the best way to ensure information is never lost.
One way to get in the habit of documenting what’s important is by creating a knowledge base that all employees can access. This includes a company wiki, where your company can organize company knowledge, policies, and SOPs in one platform.
There are many tools you can use to make documenting knowledge easy (we use Notion!).
Losing someone valuable shouldn’t put a full stop to your operations.
Putting formal systems in place ensures that knowledge transfer happens while they’re still around, allowing you to avoid those sticky situations.
About the Author:
Amy Miocevich is an Australian author of Very Good Marketing, director of her company Lumos Marketing and a mum. Amy has a plethora of business knowledge and experience helping individuals across all industries over her professional career. She has a deep and innate passion to help small businesses achieve their Big Hairy Audacious Goals, whatever they may be. When Amy isn’t busy working or waking up at 5 am to run, she is probably eating ramen or wanting to eat ramen. Say hi to Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.