Why Knowledge Transfer Is Important (With Definition)

Updated September 30, 2022

One of the most effective means of obtaining and keeping organizational information is by using a coordinated system. When an integral employee leaves, it's important to ensure they don't take critical information with them. Learning about how to transfer knowledge can help improve collaboration and productivity within an organization. In this article, we define knowledge transfer, discuss its importance, define knowledge transfer plans, and explore how to develop one.

What is knowledge transfer?

Knowledge transfer is the process of identifying, documenting, and disseminating information within an organization. The phrase refers to the exchange of information between people, departments, or within a company. Different parties may share knowledge directly or post and access knowledge via a centralized repository. The information included in the transfer may be internal, originating within the organization, or external, originating from outside the organization. Knowledge may also be either explicit or tacit:

  • Explicit: This information is easy to collect and distribute either physically or as audio or visual files. It incorporates elements such as step-by-step procedures.

  • Tacit: This information is a product of experience and is more challenging to keep accessible. Tacit knowledge includes potential problems associated with certain activities or procedures, including previous effective or unsuccessful solutions.

It's important to structure a knowledge transfer system with measurable outcomes to ensure it works effectively.

Related: Skills vs. Abilities and Knowledge

Why information transfer is important in the workplace

Information transfer is critical because it lets a business maintain knowledge despite staff churn. A successful system for a transfer of knowledge allows you to add an individual's experience to the institution's collective experience. In this way, teams can easily retain and access information even when faced with member turnover. An informal system creates opportunities to lose or inefficiently transmit information. In contrast, a defined information sharing system helps ensure all parties submit and receive critical information as needed. This system is useful in the workplace because it allows you to do the following:

  • Retain knowledge gained from completed projects: In conceptualizing, developing, and implementing a project, there may be lessons that can help expedite future projects.

  • Apply lessons learned: In addition to helping you gather knowledge, an information transfer plan can also help you organize and distribute that knowledge when it's most useful for the next project. In this way, the transfer makes the organization more responsive.

  • Increase efficiency of training new employees: An individual who is new to the organization can benefit from past and current colleagues' collective knowledge. In this way, they can more quickly and seamlessly integrate with the team.

  • Expedite the transfer of a team member to a new department or position: Like a new hire, a team member who changes from one position to another can access retained knowledge to facilitate the transition to new responsibilities. They can also use the transfer system to share knowledge with their replacement.

  • Centralize organizational knowledge: A transfer system helps the organization keep its institutional knowledge in one common location. Dispersed information can be challenging to organize and risks permanent accidental deletion.

  • Promote an organizational culture of learning: An established transfer system that all team members use and contribute to can help everyone feel aligned to preserve the organization's collective knowledge.

What is a transfer plan?

A transfer plan is a written or spoken plan for transferring skills and expertise from one professional to another. When a team member leaves a business, companies incorporate information transfer strategies to close any gaps in knowledge that may arise. A business may develop a transfer strategy that corresponds to the departing member's timeframe to guarantee that the team stays cohesive and informed after their departure. Information transfer plans can prove beneficial when combined with other organizations.

The transmission of knowledge guarantees that everyone who wants to access that information can effectively and productively do so. These strategies consider both explicit and tacit information. Explicit knowledge refers to industry-standard or government-issued information that describes procedures. Tacit knowledge refers to information that's more challenging to explain openly, such as personal wisdom or industrial practices that are widely accepted but aren't in official records.

Related: 10 Helpful Tips for First-Time Managers

How to develop a transfer plan

The following are steps you can use to develop an information transfer plan in the workplace:

1. Identify the people with essential knowledge

Think about the individuals who hold knowledge essential to the organization's activities. These might be the people everyone turns to with particular queries or requests for assistance with certain procedures. Look for the people whom others acknowledge as the only ones who know how to accomplish a certain task or whose responsibilities might remain incomplete if they were to depart.

Related: What Is Industry Knowledge? (With Levels and Examples)

2. Capture the important knowledge

After identifying the individuals who possess critical knowledge, provide them with incentives to disclose it. Consider giving them a time slot during meetings to speak or inviting them to participate in mentorship initiatives. Additionally, you may automate the process of collecting and contributing information to your knowledge stores. You may want to provide templates or spreadsheets to make it easier for knowledge holders to communicate their information. You can also establish a dedicated position or team to manage this process.

3. Store and distribute the knowledge

It's useful to store data in a well-organized, easily accessible fashion. If the information is easy to find, more people can access it. Try to make the knowledge available in multiple formats, but it's not necessary for all of it to be digital. There can also be person-to-person transfers, which are particularly important for tacit knowledge.

4. Use the knowledge

You can set an example by using the collected knowledge and encouraging others in the organization to do so. Consider holding training sessions to help those in the organization understand how to best use the knowledge repository. Invite those who access the knowledge to submit feedback on its quality and usefulness. You can also encourage analysis of the gathered data to generate new conclusions.

5. Keep making and collecting knowledge

You can add external knowledge to your repository from industry experts and hold brainstorming meetings to solve problems. Over time, continue maintaining and updating the knowledge repository with an ongoing plan to collect knowledge from certain positions or groups and transfer it to others. In this way, you can make it part of the organizational culture to share information freely. It's also important to update or replace information as it becomes outdated.

Importance of a transfer plan

There are various reasons an information transfer plan is a critical component when terminating staff or merging with another organization. These include the following:

Increasing the collection and dissemination of information within the organization

By developing strategies to transfer knowledge, you can expedite the process of gathering critical information and help diffuse it across the organization. Businesses pool their collective expertise to innovate their industries, identify additional revenue streams, and improve employee safety. This information is important because it enables an organization to take action and make significant changes.

This motivates team members to seek new information to broaden the pool of knowledge and skills available to the company. A strategy assists the company in organizing what information it wants to get and when and how to obtain it, which allows for improved organization throughout the process.

Encouraging assimilation with other ideas or departments

Departments may merge to form a more cohesive team that uses everyone's talents and expertise. During such a merger, the plan may include the types of information that one department can transmit to the other and the most efficient methods. This approach also works for concepts. For instance, if two organizations have divergent workplace principles, the transfer strategy may assist them in determining how to merge those concepts and identify commonalities to facilitate employee assimilation.

Stimulating interest in new skills and knowledge for team members

Highlighting how, when, and what information the organization wishes to transmit may assist employees in acquiring new knowledge and sharing it with the company, since it simplifies and expedites the process. This helps promote a culture of sharing information rather than keeping knowledge private. Several companies benefit from information sharing, which contributes to developing a more competent and informed workforce.

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