Capturing and transferring knowledge in the knowledge transfer process

Last updated: May 19, 2021

Knowledge can be captured and transferred through many approaches.

Approaches to capturing knowledge

An after-action review, also known as a project post mortem, is a structured and detailed evaluation of an event that recently ended. The process reviews the project or situation, what happened, why it happened, and how it could be done better in the future. A key principle of an after-action review is focused on learning, the team, and being more effective in the future. An after-action review is not about blame or fault finding.

 

Blog is an abbreviation of the term "web log," an online website which hosts multiple entries or posts. There's usually a single author for a blog and it may focus on one or more topics.

Coaching involves a professional relationship between an individual and a coach that focuses on improving performance and seeks to enrich knowledge, skill-set, and competencies.

A community of practice is a group of people who share an interest, subject matter, or problem. The group connects on a regular basis to share information.

Cross training involves an employee training another employee to do their work. This is often done to ensure there is coverage during employee absences and also functions as a knowledge transfer approach.

Documentation refers to any documents that contain knowledge. These documents create a record and include program reviews, best practices, job aids, training guides, etc. It's important that these are stored in an easily accessible place so that they can be found and used.

An expert listing is a list of employees with extensive knowledge or ability in a particular area that can be contacted to share and develop knowledge in other employees.

Formal Learning (DOCX, 44KB) has the learning goals and objectives normally defined by the training department, instructional designer, and/or instructor. Formal learning is also called structured learning or synchronous learning.

An Informational Interview (DOCX, 46KB) involves an employee who is new, less experienced, or unfamiliar with the subject matter interviewing one or several experienced employees and/or subject matter experts to learn more about a specific topic.

Job Aids (DOCX, 45KB) are tools or other resource that provide the right amount of task guidance and support, at the moment of need, as part of work.

Job aids reinforce key principles and steps in a process. They're an ideal tool when someone has learned a new skill and for frequently repeated tasks. Job aids can help an entire team if there is a significant change in procedures or processes.

Job Shadowing (DOCX, 45KB) involves an employee partnering with a more experienced employee or an employee in a different area. The employee follows their job shadow partner through their normal work.

A leadership transition workshop is a facilitated session to help the incoming leader and team transition from the leadership of the departing leader in order to begin building new relationships. This process helps a team accelerate the process of transition and knowledge transfer following leadership change. Workshops can also be done by videoing a series of interviews with the departing leader that are shared with the new leader at regular intervals. For example: Day 1, end of first month, end of 60 days, and end of 90 days.

Mentoring (DOCX, 45KB) is when an employee shares their valuable knowledge and skills with one or more other employees by using coaching skills, telling stories, answering questions, and/or giving advice. Employees can participate in different mentoring relationships.

Orientation occurs when an employee is new to the team and/or organization. During orientation, an employee learns about their new role and responsibilities, their team and team function, and the organization. Orientation occurs through formal programs and informal learning.

 

Overlap (DOCX, 44KB) is when a replacement for an employee who is retiring, resigning, or going on a significant leave is hired before the person in the role has left. Both people are in the role for a period of time which allows for knowledge transfer. Overlap is also referred to as double banking or double bunking.

A peer assist is a facilitated meeting or workshop where one or more peers share their experiences, insights, and knowledge.

In the BC Public Service, we often have the opportunity to hire for Short Term Assignments (DOCX, 45KB). These include temporary assignments, auxiliary assignments, and coop assignments. Short term assignments can be used to support knowledge transfer in multiple ways.

Storytelling is the sharing of information, expertise, and experience through stories. Storytelling predates writing and holds an important place in many cultures.

Videos & Audio Recordings (DOCX, 45KB) of experienced workers sharing their expertise can help capture and share knowledge. These recordings are commonly found on websites. For example, the Conference Board of Canada or loaded onto a YouTube-like resource where the videos are accessible across an organization and easily searchable. A more modern example is a podcast.

 

A Wiki (DOCX, 45KB) is a website that allows staff, or members of a community of practice, to edit, add, and delete content. The most famous wiki is Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia. The ability for multiple people to contribute to a wiki makes it an excellent platform for knowledge sharing. 

 

Considerations for transferring knowledge

The best approach will depend on the skill or knowledge being transferred, the time and resources available, the number of people involved, and the preferences of the people involved. A combination of approaches is often beneficial for knowledge holders and learners. Some other considerations include:

  • Preferences: How employees would prefer to share or receive knowledge. For example, some approaches may be done in person or virtually
  • Context: Your choice of knowledge transfer approach may be limited by contextual factors, such as whether you have approval to hire a replacement before a subject matter expert or knowledge holder’s retirement
  • Types of knowledge: Some types of knowledge, particularly around organizational awareness, lend themselves more easily to some approaches, whereas others may be more effective through other approaches
  • Evolution: Your work and technology are constantly evolving and so are knowledge transfer approaches. An internet search will give you access to a vast number of approaches

Questions to ask your team:

  • What approaches are best suited for transferring this knowledge?
  • What experiences will the knowledge receivers need in order to be successful doing the key activities?
  • What approaches are best suited for capturing the information?
  • What tools or format would help make this information easily accessible?
  • Will the givers and receivers of the knowledge be in the same physical location? Will the knowledge transfer be done via telephone, email, or video chat?
  • How will we know when knowledge is transferred? What are our measures of success?