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Knowledge Transfer: The Devil's in the Details
Tuesday, June 28, 2016 6:35 AM

By Norma Garza, AVP Remote Transaction Resources, Credit Union Resources

Have you ever had a key employee leave his job and, after his departure, found little to no knowledge of his job processes that would help someone else complete his tasks, which now need immediate attention? How many times has this happened? 

Why is it that some organizations, departments, or people seem to have an easier process than others for transferring the much-needed job knowledge? And how relevant is knowledge transfer in today’s environment, anyway? Does it even rank in your or your organization’s list of priorities?

We all know how to conduct research online using our computers, iPads, cell phones, etc., so maybe it seems like the transfer of knowledge is pretty much taken care of. As a matter of fact, you might well be thinking that there’s so much information floating around on a daily basis that, if needed, you’ll be able to find what you need as fast as you can say Google. But how true is that? As they say, the devil is in the details.

While visiting the Filene Research Institute website, I came across Nick Bontis’ Knowledge Transfer Review: Case of the Credit Unions—a read I highly recommend. Nick sheds light on what is and should be considered the most valuable asset to your organization: the intellectual capital that is your people.

Knowledge Transfer Methods
Report credit: Diane Piktialis and Kent Greenes, Bridging the Gaps: How to Transfer Knowledge in Today’s Multigenerational Workplace, The Conference Board, Research Report 1428, 2008, p. 23.

For the most part, organizations do a good job of providing the explicit knowledge of processes (e.g., documentation, procedures, and miscellaneous information an employee would need to perform a job). Tacit knowledge is readily available via your tenured coworkers; however, what happens when the repository of knowledge held by your coworker is no longer available for you to tap into?

Unfortunately, the credit union industry is experiencing these missing blocks of information at a rapid pace. As our industry has matured, so has the average age of the credit union employee. Turnover for a variety of reasons is inevitable in any organization, but credit unions are experiencing an exodus of tenured management and staff who have a wealth of institutional knowledge in addition to their process expertise. The challenge is to capture that intellectual capital and transfer it to others so that the operation runs without interruption, and those left behind aren't overloaded and overstressed by taking on extra work they aren't quite familiar with.

Diane Piktialis and Kent Greens’ "Bridging the Gaps: How to Transfer Knowledge in Today’s Multigenerational Workplace" is a practical guide for chauffeuring a novice on the learning curve toward becoming an expert. The report is based on a research study that illuminates the knowledge management challenges facing credit unions—and points toward solutions.

Credit unions may never spend as much time on knowledge management as they do on loan portfolios, capital ratios, or net income. Neglecting those measures brings quick failure. But the neglect of knowledge management brings a more creeping kind of failure, one that allows good employees to wither or drift away and bad employees to slip by. If unchecked, that failure leads not to insolvency but to irrelevance. Use the research in this report to prevent that by putting effective knowledge management systems in place.