Prepare for Departure – You Know It’s Coming

When was the last time a co-worker or a manager departed your company on short notice? Everyone else gets left behind scrambling for weeks or months as a result. Balls get dropped. Deadlines get missed. Relationships falter.

Some of these situations are unavoidable. But when you know in advance an individual will depart (ex: retirement, moving to another division, a project ending) prepare by implementing a knowledge transfer plan.

Senior leaders blanch at the prospect of the most critical knowledge walking out the door. It’s even worse when several people with business critical knowledge leave simultaneously. Currently, workforce churn after the pandemic leaves HR professionals scrambling for talent as people re-assess their priorities.

Knowledge transfer can be defined as a systematic and purposeful strategy for capturing critical knowledge from key people to store and share within an organization for maximum efficiency. I add the need to transfer the ownership of key relationships, both inside and outside the organization.

Ways to ensure effective knowledge transfer

  • Involve a 3rd party

This person facilitates the process, keeps everyone on track and updates key stakeholders. An HR Business Partner or Talent Partner often serves in this role.

  • Use tools to capture the knowledge

Assess the knowledge, skills and abilities required for the role, what the incoming part(ies) bring, and identify the gap(s). Use these assessments to then develop the knowledge transfer plan.

  • Build enough time into the process

Ensure the newcomer to the role drives the work with the outgoing party observing and providing feedback prior to departure.

    • NOTE: They won’t get to shadow and partner on everything in advance. Some important responsibilities take place infrequently (annually or quarterly). These have to be discussed and documented in advance when they can’t be practiced together during knowledge transfer.
  • Minimize business disruption

Day to day operations must continue. External stakeholders need to know their business remains in good hands with the new party picking up where the previous relationship owner leaves off. Reassure team members their needs and priorities will get worked.

Betsy Winkler is a partner at PeopleResults. She can be reached on Twitter @betsywinkler1.