With baby boomers retiring soon, we can expect mass departures in the coming years. Have you put a mechanism in place to preserve and pass on their expertise?
Transmitting knowledge is often something that is ignored, both in the private and public industries. Sometimes it’s due to a lack of time, and sometimes because a lack of money. But it is also because some employers underestimate the impact an employee leaving will have on the organization.
At least that’s what Julie Carignan, organizational psychologist and senior partner at SPB Organizational Psychology, believes. “Many companies are stuck in the ‘identification of need stage’. The transfer of expertise is not a two-week process; ideally, you should give yourself two to three years to prepare for someone’s departure.”
She continues, saying that “this transfer is not only a wealth of knowledge, but also of impeccable skills.” We are talking about general knowledge that the person has earned throughout their working years, as well as work habits and skills that they developed over time.
It’s not all about predicting upcoming retirements. Carignan states that “change happens at different stages of a career nowadays. Within specialized fields or in the case of complex functions, you cannot wait until the last minute to prepare a succession plan.” According to Carignan, companies in the manufacturing sector have understood this important step and continuously improve their processes to avoid facing a labour and expertise shortage whenever any single group leaves.
An expertise transfer program establishes processes and efficient tools adapted to the reality of an organization. For Carignan, access to an individual’s knowledge does not simply happen through an exit interview. We must be able to observe the employee on the job, establish a partnership between the newcomer and the person that is about to leave, implement knowledge transfer workshops and other types of learning.
Avoid being reactive
An effective transfer of expertise avoids going down the reactive road and, in turn, a major loss of valuable information. But there is more: it ensures a faster performance and a more efficient transition. “The learning curve can be expensive, but if one is well prepared, that cost can be greatly reduced. In reactive mode, the risk for errors is only increased,” says Carignan. Some companies simply cannot afford that.
Carignan reminds us that we should not underestimate out internal pool of talent either. Many employers automatically turn to hiring from the outside to replace a retired employee, but there are ways to prepare and develop an internal worker, which helps in lowering costs for the company. In this case, you are really investing in the development of individuals.
Julie Carignan highlights how the transfer of expertise is also at the heart of employee engagement. “Those that take part in the process of transferring expertise and knowledge feel more supported, more valued in their workplace. And the person who retires also finds in it important benefits. “It is motivating to know that our expertise will be transfer to the next generation, that our knowledge is of value to the company!”