Effective leadership development programs build agile teams that are capable of evolving with the growing needs of the company. As a result, programs focused on knowledge transfer create a strong foundation on which to nurture emerging leaders and support organizational growth. To maintain alignment with the organization’s strategic goals and long-term success, leaders must work in partnership with the rest of the workforce to ensure that the right information is shared with the right people at the right time to support critical business functions and processes.
Let’s explore how knowledge transfer can bridges generational gap and support organizational goals and objectives.
According to Training Industry, “knowledge transfer is the process by which experienced employees share or distribute their knowledge, skills and behaviors to the employees replacing them.” Not all of your employees plan to retire or leave within the next year or two, so they may not have a sense of urgency when it comes to sharing or transferring knowledge to others. But knowledge transfer is more about people working together and sharing information today to help the organization reach a common goal tomorrow. Knowledge transfer is also more than succession planning. It is an organization’s ability to capture information, manage a knowledge repository, and use data to inform and drive business initiatives.
Knowledge transfer is good for business. If knowledge truly is power, every organization should want to capture and manage it. One way to do so is to create a leadership development program that models knowledge transfer best practices.
Organizations are tasked with identifying the next generation of leaders while maintaining and building a strong leadership base in their current reality. To accomplish this task, they should start by defining the essential leadership skills and traits they want to hone in order to maintain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
The Center for Creative Leadership describes “leadership as a collective social process.” With that definition in mind, here are a few elements to include in your leadership development programs to facilitate knowledge transfer:
Clear Expectations and Desired Outcomes
Too often, we leave a meeting with a goal and many questions on how to do the work — and why. State your intentions, but also document what you want everyone to do. Provide clear and consistent messages, well-written processes, templates and checklists to help teams understand how the system works and what you expect them to do. Help process owners and content creators to keep content short and simple. Communicate the importance of knowledge transfer, explain how to do it and practice it yourself.
Knowledge transfer helps to mitigate risks when key personnel who perform business-critical functions leave an organization. Recognize and reward professionals who practice effective knowledge transfer, and support cross-generational knowledge transfer in particular. Make intentional cross-training part of your strategic leadership development plan to ensure that employees are ready to step into a new role when the need arises.
We have often heard that “practice makes perfect” and that “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” To minimize the loss of knowledge or skills, create formal opportunities for emerging leaders to exercise their new skills and build their confidence. In your leadership training, include simulation exercises and communities of practice to help knowledge transfer occur naturally.
Technology offers many options for capturing and disseminating information. To be effective, your use of technology must also be intentional. Assess your organization’s readiness to use social tools and learning technologies to manage a knowledge repository. Be prepared to make a business case for these resources.
Consultants as a Resource
Many organizations engage consultants to bring their expertise to the table. If you work with a partner, communicate your expectations regarding knowledge transfer to internal personnel, and put a plan in place to ensure that the consultant’s work continues after the engagement has ended. When working with leadership trainers, be sure they include knowledge transfer in their delivery.
Effective knowledge transfer promotes engagement and collaboration and drives the organization forward as it meets its strategic goals and objectives. Your emerging leaders will feel more confident to step up when the organization needs them. Most importantly, by having a focus on knowledge transfer as a core element of a leadership program, emerging leaders will have a strong foundation on which to support the organization and grow professionally.