Practical Hint #16: Knowledge Transfer from Retiring Senior Staff

Let us apply to a practical situation the expanded KM framework presented in the previous blog post.

Suppose that many experienced senior staff will be retiring from your organization within 12 months. Much knowledge will soon be lost from the organization. As a result, the quality of strategic decision making would deteriorate. Some risks, less visible to junior staff, could materialize to actual loses. Opportunities could be missed. Productivity and revenues would likely suffer.

To minimize loses in this situation, you can transfer knowledge from senior retiring staff. The expanded KM framework suggests that we must pay attention to five areas:

1. Human capital: Mentoring of understudy (over several months) on —

  • How important decisions are made
  • Practice in performing critical phases of a business process, problem solving
  • “Tricks of the trade”
  • “War stories” e.g. about how past crises were successfully handled

The understudy must be selected considering non-technical skills required of the job such as ability to communicate, people skills, team player, etc.

2. Structural capital: Turnover of records such as —

  • Work folders and work files, emails archive, Internet bookmarks
  • Manuals, work templates and tools, problem-solution logbook
  • Important information sources, etc.

3. Relationship capital:

  • The senior retiring staff introduces the junior understudy to important external business contacts and internal stakeholders especially through informal or social occasions; this process can be repeated over several months until the external or internal stakeholders accept and trust the junior understudy to an extent that the senior retiring staff judges as sufficient for the junior understudy to take over the performance of relevant functions.
  • Turnover of telephone directory
  • Confidential briefing of understudy on personalities, strengths/weaknesses and relationship styles of key business, network and internal contacts
  • Membership in knowledge and other networks; log-in and password to company-owned subscriptions, networks, etc.

4. Tangible assets:

  • Company laptop or work station
  • Books
  • Company communication devices: mobile telephone, etc.

5. Motivational factors:

  • The understudy must be selected considering not only technical qualification factors but also personal interest or enthusiasm in the job, whether the job is along his chosen career path, whether the new boss and colleagues in the job are likely to support the understudy, and presence of a personal talent that will be better utilized in the new job.

The above formula must be adapted to the nature of the job. In marketing or sales, relationship capital is more important. In jobs requiring very specialized skills, human capital is important. Motivational factors are always important. In high-tech services, technology (which is part of tangible assets) is important.

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