Knowledge Transfer

What is knowledge transfer?

Knowledge transfer is the process through which one unit such as department, group, team, division, etc. is affected by the experience of another and is manifested through changes in the knowledge or performance of the recipient units and can be demonstrated by measuring changes in performance (Argote and Ingram, 2000). Organizational knowledge can be observed through changes in the knowledge or performance of the recipient of the unit. It should always be noted that the transfer of this organizational knowledge is not an easy task.

Knowledge transfer can also be said to be a means by which expertise, knowledge, skills, and capabilities are transferred from the knowledge-base such as university and college to those who need the knowledge namely company, social enterprise, and NGOs. In short, we can say it is the interphase between universities and businesses. It involves the commercialization of skills and expertise possessed by higher education. The purpose of knowledge transfer is to catalyze and facilitate innovation. Knowledge transfer seeks to organize, create, capture or distribute knowledge and ensure its availability for future users. Knowledge transfer is not accomplished through just communication, memo or meetings but many more. It is a complex process because it resides in organizational members, tools, tasks, and their sub-network. Most of the knowledge with the HRs in any organization is tacit; hard to articulate.

What is the importance of knowledge transfer to the organization?

Knowledge transfer is not just about the transfer of information but about passing on experience, best practice, and learning. It aims in reducing the gap between knowledge and practice. Knowledge transfer in organizations has increased in importance. For instance, according to Valentine (2011) developing the right knowledge system enables organizations to improve work practices, take better decisions and avoid the criticism that comes from failing to learn from previous experiences.

Organizations can also enjoy better performance if they occupy a central network position that provides access to new knowledge developed by other units. This unit, however, depends on the units’ absorptive capacity and ability to successfully replicate new knowledge (Aoker and Keller, 1990).

Knowledge transfer and management promote and encourage knowledge-driven culture by which innovations are stimulated. It emphasizes the importance of innovative organizational culture, where innovation, creativity and learning from mistakes is appreciated. It helps in creating tools, platforms, and processes for creating, sharing and transferring tacit knowledge in the organization. 

Tacit knowledge is very important for the development of innovation capability. Knowledge transfer help in identifying ‘stock’ of tacit knowledge in an organization. It helps in encoding tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge. By providing a structured approach to knowledge, knowledge management allows an organization to identify in which areas it lacks knowledge and to systematically fill the knowledge base in these areas. The organization can do that through innovation if there are gaps in so-called strategic areas of knowledge or can do that through operational activities in knowledge management. Knowledge management helps steady growth of knowledge base, and in that way, improves innovation capability through continuous collection and storage of explicit and tacit knowledge. 

Knowledge Transfer I peopleHum

What are the benefits of knowledge transfer to the employees?

i. The employees will become less dependent upon consultants for similar future projects, or for the continuing the consultant’s work

ii. The skills and capabilities of the staff will be enhanced

iii. Employees will benefit from consultants’ lessons learned on other, similar projects

iv. Involvement of staff in the change project will help gain employee buy-in to the project and provide them with a greater degree of ownership

What are the ways to ensure critical knowledge transfer?

Knowledge transfer is a constant in any organization because passing along experience-based knowledge is essential.

In a 2013 survey of 73 chief learning officers, chief information officers, and top human resources executives, 78 percent said knowledge loss was a greater problem than five years ago. They also estimated the intangible costs of losing key employees because of delayed projects, loss of valuable relationships, mistakes occasioned by inexperience and extra training. These cost their companies an average of $430,000 for every departure on top of the usual recruitment replacement costs.

Some 42 percent reported hiring experts back as consultants to perform the same work, often at inflated prices — a costly, ultimately unsuccessful strategy for dealing with knowledge loss. Despite the need to address this expensive issue, only 14 percent of the executives surveyed said their organizations were doing a lot about such losses. 

Essential, competitive, critical knowledge is walking out the door daily, but addressing the issue isn’t a priority. The responsibility for preserving top talent expertise falls in the cracks between functions. Whose job is it — human resources, chief information officers or chief learning officers? Increasingly, CLOs are stepping up, possibly because they are best equipped

to address it given their specialized knowledge of learning and development.

Learning leaders can perform five activities to minimize the risk and expense associated with knowledge loss.

1. Ensure the team knows where deep smarts reside in the organization and which are at risk of loss or overutilization because they are rare. 

2. Train experts as knowledge mentors for the next generation. 

3. Help less-experienced employees learn how to pull knowledge from those with deep smarts.

4. If the need for knowledge transfer is acute and immediate, seek tools and techniques beyond exit interviews.

5. Build knowledge transfer into the organization’s DNA.

Which factors complicate knowledge transfer?

i. Inability to recognize and articulate compiled or highly intuitive competencies such as tacit knowledge


ii. Geography or distance

iii. Limitation of information and communication technologies

iv. Lack of shared and super-ordinate social identity

v. Area of expertise

vi. Internal conflicts such as professional territoriality

vii. Generational differences

viii.Union-management relations

ix. Incentives

x. The use of visual representations to transfer knowledge

xi. Problems with sharing beliefs, assumptions and cultural norms

xii. Previous exposure or experience with something


xiv.Faulty information

xv. Organizational culture non-conducive to knowledge sharing such as knowledge is power culture

xvi. Motivational issues

xvii. Lack of trust

xviii. Capability

How are Human resource management practices linked with Knowledge Transfer?

Knowledge is a key element to all Human Resources and the major reason why one company does better than the other. The more knowledgeable employees are in the organization, the more competitive that organization is. If these employees are able to share the knowledge they have with the rest of the team, the organization becomes more productive.

Transfer of knowledge helps in promoting a more decentralized structure thus increasing employee involvement through collaboration and learning. Technology will thrive well where the people there are knowledgeable and competitive. No one can handle machinery unless he/she has the required knowledge. Knowledge makes these employees more innovative and the company productive. Resistance to change is reduced when the HRs realize they can handle anything in the company and world. The HRM practices such as recruitment, selection, placement, performance appraisal, training, etc. bring gain because they are professionally handled to ensure the success of the organization.

Selection - The organization, for instance, selects people who will transfer knowledge fit guided by some explicit or implicit set of values and competencies. A manager can ensure the following for quick and successful knowledge transfer:-

i. Pay attention to the person who is transferring the knowledge and pick the right person to do that work.

Pick the person who has the experience and enough knowledge but if all the people in the organization are knowledgeable, then let all of them teach each other.

ii. Provide good tools and environments that individuals can use to transfer this knowledge.

Training – the management can train its employees in decision making, problem-solving, disaster management, etc. To be able to communicate the employees are supposed to be trained on how to articulate words properly so that they can be able to share the explicit knowledge that they have. The management and employees should be trained on how to evaluate new ideas and opinions. The management should train employees to disseminate and adopt new ideas for organizational development.

Incentives and rewards–this involves giving employees fringe benefits and monetary rewards that motivate them and this encourages the employees to generate new ideas, participate willingly and work smart.

Job security – the organizations that offer job security retain employees more. This process makes employees more willing to participate and involve themselves in the organizations’ activities.

Remuneration – competitive remunerations encourage employees to share knowledge and this, therefore, leads to better organizational performance.

Leadership and management–good leadership encourages innovativeness and transfer of knowledge.

HR in such an organization has the willingness to learn and train to make knowledge transfer even better and faster and have the ability to work as a team. The most common uses of job analysis are in setting up personnel selection procedures, test development, and validation and performance appraisal system. With the required knowledge, problem-solving techniques and decision making are well utilized. This HR professional will work competently with the others and with the management. In principle, knowledge transfer can be broken down into distinct stages, such as idea creation, sharing, evaluation, dissemination, and adoption

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