Employee Management: 6 Steps To Achieve Knowledge Transfer

Scott Firlus Training Employee

The Ag1Source consultants spend much of their winter at Ag Industry tradeshows and conferences. Every year, there is at least one industry problem or concern that tends to be discussed at each show we attend. This year, our article from the November issue of Croplife® magazine, “Thinking Ahead Today For Tomorrows Sake,” generated some good discussion along with concerns from many of the retailers we visited with. Most, if not all, agree with our plea to put a succession plan in place, yet struggle with how to actually pass on the knowledge and information to the future leaders.

The concept of passing along critical information from a departing employee to their successor or multiple people within an organization is more commonly known as Knowledge Transfer or KT. Knowledge transfer, at its simplest, is a written plan that includes a timeline to pass along each and every critical piece of knowledge held by a key employee.

We’ll dissect Knowledge Transfer into six basic steps in this article.

First, good knowledge transfer programs should clearly assess what knowledge needs to be transferred, and to which people within the business. As an example, we’ll use a CFO or top finance person within the business. Let’s say the example CFO is retiring in two years. The knowledge transfer assessment needs to include a clear list of WHAT knowledge needs to be brainstormed, collected and prioritized. This list needs to include items such as how to interface with the auditor and board, clear understanding of the accounting controls and measures, sharing current strategies and activities related to growth and assisting in the due diligence for past projects. If you want the next CFO to be 100% functional in two years, they need to be informed of what you are doing and why you are doing it. This valuable information may include letting them in on a business secret such as potential standing offers from other businesses that may be interested in one of your locations or a property that they have been keeping an eye on. The key thing to remember is to make an exhaustive list of the knowledge and prioritize it.

In the second step, take the prioritized list and assign it to people throughout the organization. As names are assigned, it is typical that 90% of the knowledge needs to be passed to the successor, but there will be other key players that will need some of the information. For example, is there value in department managers gaining insight into some of these details? Has the current CFO missed opportunities to delegate information and responsibilities to existing accounting staff?

With the key information identified and assigned to its recipient, it’s time for the third step — build a delivery timeline. If the CFO’s eventual retirement is two years out, the process will provide two business cycles to pass along the information needed, as it is happening in real-time business. A more simple way to look at this may be for the CFO to “work” each task or project with the knowledge recipient watching for the first year and for the recipient to “work” each task or project with the exiting CFO watching and coaching in the second year.

As with any set of goals or objectives, the plan needs the fourth step, which is making each goal measurable. For example, one goal could be related to the company’s insurance plans and polices. The departing CFO could be given the goal to go through all current insurance contracts with the insurance broker and make sure their replacement has a full grasp on all policies by a set date. This goal is complete when the new CFO is comfortable with the information learned through the process and is ready to take over this vendor relationship.

Keeping It Simple

So far, this is a fairly good plan in place for Knowledge Transfer. The fifth point, however, is to take a breath, re-evaluate the plan and make sure it is simple. If the end result includes 100 pieces of knowledge that need to be transferred, do some pieces need to be removed because they are repetitive? Perhaps some of the knowledge can be acquired through the hiring of a replacement. Given the running example as a CFO, maybe it is best to find a candidate to back-fill the role that will start as a controller, but has deep prior experience as a CFO in a smaller organization. Keep the plan simple and focused and it’s more likely to be followed. Many experts in the field of Knowledge Transfer talk about how some organizations think the departing employee may be too busy to take the time to pass along the knowledge. If the plan is well built and simple, then they should be able to make the time to get it done.

The last step or concept to knowledge transfer may be the most difficult, and it is to make transferring knowledge a piece of the company’s culture. As we’ve pointed out in other articles, half of the workforce in agriculture is from the “boomer” generation and most will be retiring within the next 10 years. With this much of an exodus of the current staff, the need to build a culture of knowledge transfer on a daily basis is needed. Waiting until someone gives a two-week notice, or a one-year retirement notice is not the ideal time to get this process started.

Consider challenging each person on your management team to build their own knowledge transfer outline. What are the items they feel are critical to pass on if they were to change roles? What items do they list as critical to do their job day one, and what would be necessary to learn within the first year to be successful? Asking your managers to take this step will not only give them insight into what would need to take place should they need to replace themselves, but will be a giant step in helping your organization recognize what it takes to develop a sustainable culture.

While the process outlined above is more critical for senior roles within an organization, this method can be used all the way down the line to develop a culture of continual learning, and transitioning of the institutional knowledge needed every day from your grizzled veterans to your newest team members.

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Employee Management: 6 Steps To Achieve Knowledge Transfer

  1. Thank you for a great article with sound advice. I am an expert in knowledge transfer and I head a firm that serves companies dealing with an aging/changing workforce all over the world. The real problem here is that there are employees in most organizations who have knowledge that no one else has. I urge readers of this article to consider diversifying their "apprentices" to reduce the reliance on any one person, regardless of their age. Unique knowledge is a business risk that should be mitigated for all highly critical skills. Remember that retirement is not the only reason employees leave… Steve Trautman www.stevetrautman.com

State of the Industry Stories
State of the IndustryAgriculture’s Troubled Waters
March 3, 2014
Water quantity and quality issues threaten to hamper agriculture on a wider scale in the not-too-distant future. Technology breakthroughs and improved practices are providing potential solutions. Read More
State of the IndustrySponsor Profiles: Simplot, SST And WinField Support CropLife State Of The Industry Report
January 8, 2014
The sponsor partners of the CropLife State of the Industry report have demonstrated ongoing leadership including their support of this report. Read More
State of the Industry2014 State Of The Industry: Agricultural Concerns Creep In
January 2, 2014
With many strong sales years under its belt, the agricultural community is hoping for another positive growth experience in 2014, but mindful of a few challenges that might keep this from happening. Read More
State of the IndustrySeed Systems Top Watch List
January 2, 2014
Retailers are closely following herbicide tolerance and drought resistance traits. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Grain Shuttle Loading Facility
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Acquires Missouri Refined Fuels Terminal
April 2, 2015
Bloomington, IL-based GROWMARK and Magellan Pipeline Co. have entered into an agreement in which GROWMARK will acquire the refined fuels Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Acquires South Dakota Retailer
April 2, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co.’s Agribusiness Division, a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution and marketing of plant protection, seed Read More
CropLife 100The McGregor Co. Closes Smith-Kem Acquisition
April 2, 2015
The McGregor Co. — ranked No. 16 on the CropLife 100 list of largest U.S. ag retailers — has completed Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Latest News
Eric SfiligojThe Need To Defend Production Agriculture
April 27, 2015
Last week, I spent the better part of my time on the road visiting with ag retailers and market suppliers Read More
FertilizerStarter Fertilizers Show Value In Stressful Spring Cond…
April 27, 2015
From wet, cold conditions in the eastern Corn Belt to excessively dry, cool soils in the Plains states, spring field Read More
StewardshipTFI Announces Renewed Financial Commitment To Fertilize…
April 24, 2015
Today, The Fertilizer Institute’s (TFI) President Chris Jahn announced that TFI and over 100 partners will more than double existing Read More
Industry NewsMACA Names New Ambassador Coordinator
April 23, 2015
The Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) has named Michelle Kilper as its new Ambassador Coordinator. Michelle is a graduate of Read More
ManagementAg Retailer’s Role In Local Policy Making; Raising The …
April 23, 2015
CropLife’s Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj review their recent travels, precision ag efforts in Washington, DC, and the role of Read More
TMX-2050 In-Cab Display Launch Run Screen
Precision AgIn-Cab Computing 2015: Connectivity, Compatibility Take…
April 23, 2015
In terms of in-cab computing solutions for the agriculture market, companies like Case IH, Topcon, Trimble, John Deere and Raven Read More
USDA
StewardshipUSDA Outlines Building Blocks For Climate Smart Agricul…
April 23, 2015
Today, the USDA has announced a comprehensive and detailed approach to support farmers, ranchers, and forest land owners in their Read More
Industry NewsArysta LifeScience Welcomes New Territory Sales Manager
April 23, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced the addition of Kaitlyn Acaster to the Canadian sales team. Acaster will fill the Read More
Crop InputsMarrone Bio Innovations Opens New Research Greenhouse
April 23, 2015
Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. (MBI), a leading provider of bio-based pest management and plant health products for the agriculture, turf Read More
Crop InputsDuPont Acquires Taxon Biosciences
April 23, 2015
DuPont has agreed to acquire Taxon Biosciences, Inc., a leading microbiome discovery company. This acquisition will build on DuPont’s in-house capabilities Read More
Farmer on tablet
ManagementStudy: Consumers Don’t Care If U.S. Farmers Feed …
April 23, 2015
“We’re feeding the world” is a mantra often used by those involved in farming and food to build support for Read More
Industry NewsCorporate Responsibility Magazine Names Monsanto One Of…
April 22, 2015
Corporate Responsibility Magazine (CR Magazine) named Monsanto Co. to its 100 Best Corporate Citizens List for 2015. This is the Read More
FertilizerSpring Nitrogen Management: Form And Timing
April 22, 2015
Most corn producers have planned their spring nitrogen program for 2015, and many have already started to implement their program. Read More
FMC 3Rive 3D
Industry NewsFMC Corp. Completes Acquisition Of Cheminova
April 22, 2015
FMC Corp. has completed the closing of its acquisition of Cheminova A/S, a multinational crop protection company based in Denmark Read More
SoftwareSyngenta Expands AgriEdge Excelsior Nationwide For 2015
April 22, 2015
Growers across the country can now take the guesswork out of improving their farm’s production, land value, farm stewardship and Read More
Cornfield near Sioux City Iowa
HerbicidesU.S. Regulators May Start Testing Food For Glyphosate R…
April 21, 2015
U.S. regulators may start testing food products for residues of the world’s most widely used herbicide, EPA told Reuters’ Carey Read More
FungicidesBRANDT Adds Zonix Biofungicide To Portfolio
April 21, 2015
BRANDT has added Zonix biofungicide to its rapidly expanding line of organic and sustainable products. Zonix is a contact fungicide that Read More
ManagementMissouri Experts: Spring Planting Slow Start Won’…
April 20, 2015
In the first of the agronomy teleconferences with Extension specialists, University of Missouri Extension climatologist Pat Guinan said the slow Read More