Is the pace of business really speeding up? The shareholders’ reports of companies in the S&P 500, FTSE 100 and DAX indexes illustrate the increasing pace of business by labels like “speed”, “fast”, “agile” and “disruption. In this global economy faced with turbulence and change Fortune 500 companies lose roughly “$31.5 billion a year by failing to share knowledge” (Babcock, 2004). A very confronting figure, but actively managing knowledge can help companies increase their chances of success by facilitating decision-making, building learning environments by making learning routine, and stimulating cultural change and innovation.
Due to the current pace of change, Knowledge Management (KM) and Knowledge Transfer (KT) have become essential for business organizations (Tyler et al 2007).
At Fortune 1000 companies 62% of the employers believe that upcoming retirements will result in skilled labor shortages over the next 5 years. Only 19% of employers have taken actions to prevent baby boomer brain drain (Lindegren, 2015). The power and impact of knowledge capture and transfer is also illustrated by the fact that 33% of new hires look for a new job within 6 months of joining – the cost of employee turnover ranges between 10% and 30% of the employee’s annual salary” (Harvard Business Review)
Your Knowledge Transfer benefits – a good case to invest?
Research and reports on Knowledge Management and transfer make it clear that are huge benefits to be gained. In his “15 knowledge management benefits” article Stan Garfield is one of many authors who provided an overview of which benefits can be expected when organizations invest in Knowledge Transfer. In general 5 distinctive areas can be identified where investing in Knowledge Transfer has paid off well:
- Business area – this is the strategic area strongly related to direct financial advantages: creating competitive advantage in your industry; realizing financial benefits; and achieving cost-reduction are examples of benefits to be gained
- Customer area – the focus is on the customers and how they can benefit from your KT efforts: increasing the quality of products / raising customer satisfaction & loyalty / accelerating time to market are client-focus examples
- Innovation area – this is the future-focus area, that’s the lifeline for most companies: improving R&D; developing new products & services; and application of new technologies are practical KT-examples
- Process area – here’s the more internally focused KT-area where many organizations start their Knowledge Transfer initiatives as short-term benefits are in reach: increasing productivity; reduction of errors & duplication; leveraging existing (internal) knowledge; managing risks
- Employee area – Knowledge Transfer is all about people so there’s a clear case for investment in this area, benefits include: increasing motivation & engagement; shortening time-to-competency and thus increasing productivity; improving teamwork; retaining key employees; and boosting learning agility as a foundation for adapting to new business circumstances and challenges.
What’s stopping you implementing Knowledge Transfer today?
Given the fact that the benefits are attractive and there’s even low-hanging Knowledge Transfer fruit, what’s stopping organizations from picking up that fruit? During client conversations we hear that it is not as easy as it seems, as there are major barriers to overcome. A surprising insight from our research is that Knowledge Transfer barriers are not only related to technology or funding, but the highest hurdles are in fact related to people and collaboration.
- Resources & Technology
- Lack of KT technology
- Lack of resources – funding
- Lack of time to search, store, share
- Transferring knowledge into action
- Lack of senior management support & recognition for KT efforts
- Knowledge silos
- Lack of understanding (why do it?)
- Lack of motivation, discipline or confidence
- Lack of Trust (politics, ego, culture)
- Lack of collaboration between employees or teams
- Lack of support in learning
- Cultural, geographical, language barriers
Key success factors for optimizing your Knowledge Transfer
Knowledge can define a company’s unique proposition and is a core source of business value. Loss of knowledge can place a huge risk on business survival and competitiveness. Knowledge Transfer is the cornerstone of agile and successful organizations ensuring that great practices are successfully identified and shared across the business and delivers benefits for both individuals and the organization as a whole. 98% of organizations want to increase their knowledge sharing capabilities (Dixon & Overton, 2017) and need to overcome the identified barriers. The good news is that those organizations have opportunities to start, and progress their Knowledge Transfer capabilities TODAY by addressing the 6 key success factors, learning from research and Crossknowledge client best practices:
- Define your Knowledge Transfer strategy, including succession planning & retention
- Develop both an internal & external focus for learning and sharing
- Invest in Knowledge Transfer technology & skills
- Ensure senior management support for KT-initiatives and have them lead by example
- Tune your incentives & recognition culture for individuals-teams related to Knowledge Transfer
- Prepare (upskill) your HR-L&D teams so they can facilitate and boost Knowledge Transfer
- Babcock, P. (2004). Shedding light on Knowledge Management. HR magazine
- Dixon, G. & Overton, L. (2017). Tactics for successful Knowledge Transfer. Towards Maturity
- Garfield, S, (2014). 15 Knowledge management benefits. LinkedIn blog
- Lindegren, R. (2015). Baby Boomer Brain Drain. LinkedIn Blog.
- North, K., & Kumta, G. (2015). Knowledge Management: Value creation through organizational learning. The Economist
- Tyler, K., Bibri, M., & Tyler, N. (2007). Strategic Sustainable Development and Knowledge Management the Natural Step. Doctoral dissertation, Karlskrona, Sweden).