Over time, good leaders at a company will develop directives to employees — this could be compliance initiatives with certain rules to follow, systems for managing information, solutions for better job performance, or skill set tips from those who have done the job previously to pass along to the team.
Preserving this valuable information from previous communications can be a challenge. Key knowledge, expertise and collaboration developed over time through experience and interactions throughout the company — and with customers and partners — are important and often critical assets of a company. These valuable assets may be shared only in a call or an in-person meeting, or more frequently, via an email blast. While this is great for the recipients participating, what about those who come on-board later, were not present for the debrief of knowledge, or find themselves subsequently determining the debrief should have involved other departments? This would provide a gap in knowledge sharing and could very well affect profitability for the company. The challenge is to make this information searchable for new employees and for those who might not have been present for an important conversation — to keep the information accessible down the road.
Company leaders want to be able to help their employees help themselves. Having a searchable knowledge base internal to the organization allows employees to understand standard operating procedures, who on the team may be able to help them with a skill or piece of equipment, and/or how to most successfully complete a task.
Collaborative environments foster better communication and create a better work environment in the long-term — and a more successfully run business. Building a knowledge base helps to develop collaboration. This could be in the form of an intranet, centralized hub, gateway, or any central place that employees can access and share information securely. What’s vital here is also that the information is searchable so that advice and directives can be readily found. It also allows company leaders to upload information/articles to extend the conversation, which heightens notice. The best arrangement is for all employees to share information, which may mean incentivizing to increase activity. An aggregated community can create a lot of internal buzz and keep ideas flowing.
Next, we look at the steps to be taken when committing to a formal knowledge transfer system. Over time it will improve productivity, eliminate redundancy and promote a collaborative environment that values teamwork.
Who Needs to Know What – and Who has the Answers?
Identifying who knows what – and who needs to know what – is a complex process complicated by challenges brought on by the dispersement of teams situated across the organization and who are often working in silos with people focused on specific projects rather than the ‘big picture.’
As so much of a company’s assets consist of information that should be shared, leaders need to invest in a way to securely and effectively transfer knowledge, ideas and resources from across organizational boundaries into a truly collaborative environment that will increase productivity, eliminate redundant questions/answers and foster collaboration. This naturally will spill over into the enhancement of customer service.
Getting Procedures in Place
Getting started with an internal searchable database means committing to a clear and consistent knowledge transfer process and seeking the tools – internal and/or external – needed for a successful implementation. This should be a formalized endeavor with teams assigned to create documents that identify how a process works and what typical glitches may have been encountered along the way with answers on what was done to fix them.
By creating templates and systems, technology can capture what has gone on before, preventing time-consuming re-learning activities and giving newer employees the opportunity to gain knowledge from their predecessors and other team members. Basically, employees will spend less time looking for information and more time making meaningful contributions to their teams and the company.
Cross-training can also be helpful. While many organizations aren’t able to assign two or more people to every job, leaders can embrace a cross-training environment where there will be certainty that coverage is available in case of an unforeseen incident or emergency. This commitment can also be helpful in the case of a key employee leaving the organization with critical knowledge that has never been shared.
If formal training opportunities aren’t available, part of cross-training may involve temporarily removing one or more staff members from the process and then determining what gaps appear that are critical to be filled. And then figure out how to fill them.
Also, an ongoing series of collaborative team meetings often inspire new ideas and information exchange. This commitment not only helps to build confidence and energy, but also helps to generate new networks among groups, which perhaps didn’t realize how their projects impact the organizational mission as a whole.
Consultants can be part of this process, perhaps by setting out timelines with clear-cut milestones and serving as guides when challenges arise. It’s important to remember, however, that ownership of this knowledge base belongs in the hands of those who are inputting that knowledge and keeping the ‘library’ up to date with the latest process iterations and FAQs.
Knowledge Transfer is a Valuable Company Asset
This knowledge transfer practice should be viewed as a key company asset. An employee portal preserves historical information as well as expedites the onboarding and training of new team member. It can also make a significant competitive difference by enhancing the efficiencies of new product or service developments and impacting customer service endeavors. The focus on this shared knowledge base creates an effective and collaborative environment that promotes employee engagement, confidence and recognizes the achievements and contributions of all current and new team members.