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

Liquid Fertilizer Storage tanks
State of the IndustryComplex Fertilizer Market Brings Mixed Feelings
January 5, 2016
Declining fertilizer prices and plentiful supplies should be good news for growers facing low crop prices. But they and their Read More
Asmus Farm Supply crop protection products in storage
State of the Industry2016 Crop Protection Outlook: The Guessing Game
January 4, 2016
One would naturally assume that retail sales of crop protection products in a contracted market would themselves be contracted, but Read More
Seed corn bags in storage
Special ReportsThe Outlook For Seed In 2016
January 3, 2016
Among all crop input categories going into 2016, the seed category has as many questions regarding which direction it will Read More
Wilbur-Ellis’ new fertilizer blending facility, located in Mott, ND, was designed by A.J. Sackett & Sons.
State of the IndustryBuying Intentions Survey: Retailers Taking A Prudent Approach In 2016
January 2, 2016
The CropLife® magazine Buying Intentions Survey made its debut last year to gauge current industry trends against the retailer’s plans Read More
Trending Articles
Eric SfiligojPity The Monsanto Haters
May 23, 2016
An old saying goes thus: “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.” Given current events, there Read More
Monsanto Luling Plant
Crop InputsReport: Bayer Eyeing Monsanto For Possible Mega-Merger
May 16, 2016
Bayer AG is exploring a potential bid for U.S. competitor Monsanto Co. in a deal that would create the world’s Read More
Aerial Drone
Precision AgA Deeper Dive Into The Future Of Precision Ag
May 9, 2016
For about two decades now, through the good and the bad times, the ups and the downs inherent in agriculture, Read More
Palmer amaranth in soybean stubble
HerbicidesWSSA: Billions In Potential Economic Losses From Uncontrolled Weeds
May 4, 2016
What losses would corn and soybean growers experience if they were forced to eliminate herbicides and other control techniques from Read More
Eric SfiligojReasons For Hope In Commodity Prices
May 2, 2016
For many months now, the doomsayers have ruled the day in agriculture. Too much supply with too little demand would Read More
Eric SfiligojMissing The Family Ties In Agriculture
April 25, 2016
By its nature, the agriculture market is cyclical. Up and down cycles come and go with a regular pattern. For Read More
Latest News
ManagementWashington Visit and Bayer/Monsanto Deal Update
May 26, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discusses a recent trip to DC and the latest news on the proposed pairing Read More
Fertilizer closeup in hand
Industry NewsVerdesian: Striking A Balance Between Yield & ROI
May 26, 2016
Finely tuned nutrient management plans are helping farmers throughout the U.S. improve nutrient use efficiency, increase return on investment (ROI) Read More
Crop InputsLand O’Lakes Announces Minnesota Water Quality Pa…
May 25, 2016
Governor Mark Dayton and Land O’Lakes, Inc. President and CEO Chris Policinski today announced a new public-private partnership to protect Read More
Soybean Plant closeup
Industry NewsMonsanto Rejects Bayer Bid; Open To More Talks
May 25, 2016
Monsanto Co, the world’s largest seed company, turned down Bayer AG’s $62 billion acquisition bid as “incomplete and financially inadequate” Read More
Corn close up
Crop InputsArysta LifeScience Establishes Global Headquarters In R…
May 25, 2016
Arysta LifeScience has announced plans to relocate its global headquarters from West Palm Beach, FL, to Cary, NC, over the Read More
fertilizer blending and storage, Top 100
BlendersCHS Dakota Expansion Features AGCO’s GSI InterSys…
May 25, 2016
The continued growth of precision agriculture has increased farmer use of customized fertilizer blends best-suited for their soil conditions. Several Read More
ManagementAgriculture 3.5: A Bumpy Road Ahead
May 24, 2016
You may have read my article a few years ago on Agriculture 3.0, which is a term I coined to Read More
Topcon’s X30 display with CropSpec sensors
EquipmentGPS Autosteer Systems: Product Updates From Precision A…
May 24, 2016
Throughout 2015 GPS Steering solutions continued to evolve from what was once an after-market add on, to today’s cab where Read More
Trimble TMX-2050 In-Cab Display
Eric SfiligojThe Precision Ag Revolution Continues
May 24, 2016
It’s funny how much “the first time” tends to mean to someone as they get older. I sometimes can’t recall Read More
Eric Wintemute, AMVAC
Precision AgAMVAC Ups The Ante With New Precision Ag Technology
May 24, 2016
A potentially industry-changing at-plant soil treatment system from American Vanguard Corp., or AMVAC, is coming soon to large growers in Read More
Dry and Liquid Plant
CropLife 100CropLife 100 Map
May 24, 2016
The new CropLife 100 map shows the locations of each of the headquarters of the 2015 CropLife 100 retailers. The interactive Read More
Southern States Cooperative
Corn Field
Industry NewsTiger-Sul Names Veteran Account Manager To Lead Central…
May 23, 2016
With the continuing growth of the sulphur bentonite and precision crop nutrient industry, global agriculture firm H.J. Baker has announced that Read More
Bayer sign
Industry NewsReuters: Bayer Defies Critics With $62 Billion Monsanto…
May 23, 2016
German drugs and crop chemicals group Bayer has offered to buy U.S. seeds company Monsanto for $62 billion in cash, Read More
Eric SfiligojPity The Monsanto Haters
May 23, 2016
An old saying goes thus: “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.” Given current events, there Read More
Industry NewsCompass Minerals Hires Industry Veteran To Lead Plant N…
May 19, 2016
Compass Minerals has hired plant nutrition industry veteran Vatren Jurin to steer the company’s portfolio expansion into specialty liquid micronutrient Read More
ASMARK Retailers LIVE! Tour 2016 Group shot The Andersons
CropLife 100The Andersons Rejects Unsolicited Proposal From HC2
May 19, 2016
The Andersons, Inc. has announced that its Board of Directors has rejected two non-binding, highly conditional, unsolicited proposals from HC2 Read More
glyphosate
Crop InputsWHO: Glyphosate ‘Unlikely’ To Cause Cancer
May 16, 2016
Via Reuters.com reporter Kate Kelland: The weed-killing pesticide glyphosate, made by Monsanto and widely used in agriculture and by gardeners, Read More