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What Is Knowledge Transfer?

Melissa Barrett
Melissa Barrett

Knowledge transfer is the sharing of information and procedures across all departments and locations of an organization. Usually, this term applies to large or complex ideas that would require more than one brief conversation or letter to impart. As such, this form of learning is generally accomplished by specific programs designed for this purpose.

Technology has vastly improved knowledge transfer from a business to its workers. Most data needed for daily operations of an organization is easily accessible via computer. Standard operating procedures, customer information, and product information are all available at the touch of a button. Even daily memos are often organized and archived for easy retrieval.

Businessman giving a thumbs-up
Businessman giving a thumbs-up

In an attempt to expand the collective information of an organization, managers often implement programs to gather information directly from their workers. For example, an employee involved in a work-related accident may be interviewed to determine the events that led to the mishap. That information may be used to create standard operating procedures to avoid the same set of circumstances.

Likewise, an individual who has participated in a large project may be interviewed or surveyed as to his or her experiences. This person is often encouraged to list both positive and negative aspects and to offer suggestions on how the process could have been improved. Knowledge transfer of this type enhances future experiences and improves productivity.

In many case, hands-on experience is much more valuable to knowledge transfer than even the most comprehensive database. Company descriptions of job responsibilities very rarely paint accurate pictures of daily job functions. The bridge between company expectations and reality can only be described by the individual that is in the trenches doing the job. As such, programs like knowledge fairs and information exchanges are invaluable. These programs provide opportunities for employees in different stations to exchange practical knowledge in conversational atmospheres.

Another approach to increasing this type of knowledge transfer is to expose employees to the as many job positions as possible. Job rotation initiatives, which change the duties and responsibilities of each worker on a set schedule, excel at introducing workers to all aspects of company operations. Other programs, such as mentoring, internships, and classic classroom training are also effective to varying degrees.

One of the biggest benefits to an effective knowledge transfer system is a diversity of ideas and operating styles. Frequently, this leads to more effective problem solving and more practical development of best practice procedures. Improved employee morale is often a pleasant side effect of this increased cohesion.

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