Human Edge: Know how to get the know-how

by Angela Splinter

It is not unusual to see drivers and other trucking industry employees working into their 70s. However, this may not be the norm in all organizations. Even when it does happen, these workers will not stay on the job forever.

It is why many firms are concerned about losing corporate knowledge, wisdom and industry insights when older workers walk out the door to begin retirement.

Smart organizations are responding with knowledge transfer programs—a combination of formal and informal methods which capture what the experienced workers know, so it can all be shared with younger and less-experienced personnel.

These programs will save money by ensuring that knowledge does not need to be recreated from scratch.

There are two types of knowledge to consider in one of these programs. Explicit knowledge is information that is easily documented and can be shared in person or through other means. Implicit or tacit knowledge is something that we know but is not easily transferred to another person verbally or in writing. It is gained through personal contact and hands-on experience. Some examples include how to work with a particular dispatcher, or understand the way things work beyond the written orientation booklet or formal policies. In other words, it can be about learning the informal tricks of the trade.

Trucking HR Canada’s popular Your Guide to Human Resources describes the knowledge transfer itself in seven steps.

Step 1: Identify the essential knowledge you want to capture– including the sources and types of knowledge.

Focus first on those positions that are critical to your organization’s success (for example: truck drivers, dispatchers, sales people, etc.), as well as those that you are in danger of losing due to retirement. Then determine the type of knowledge each person has that is important to capture and share. Is it explicit or implicit/tacit knowledge? Is it both? The answer to these questions will determine the approach the organization should take in collecting information.

Step 2: Identify who in the organization has the knowledge that the firm needs to transfer. Who is the appropriate “knowledge keeper” to involve in the process?

These people might include soon-to-be retired truck drivers, dispatchers or others who are critical to your organization’s success. Knowledge keepers who have already retired could be brought back on a contract basis or through others means.

Choose these people carefully. Develop some criteria for choosing them: Are they excellent role models with the skills and knowledge you want shared? Are they interested in participating and are keen to share what they know? Are they good and effective communicators?

Step 3: Motivate identified knowledge keepers to share their knowledge.

Organizations should reassure older employees that transferring knowledge to younger employees will not endanger their jobs or make them redundant.

Reward those who transfer their knowledge. Recognize the efforts in their performance reviews, and offer special recognition for participating. Plaques or a mention in the company newsletter are two possible approaches.

Step 4: Identify who should receive the knowledge.

Maintaining a regularly updated and clear list of the people who need to receive information will ensure that nobody is overlooked.

Step 5: Design the knowledge transfer process and plan, and select the knowledge transfer method or tool to be used.

Be sure to consider the learning approaches and communication styles of different generations when developing the appropriate methods or tools to be used. And set the criteria by which you will measure the program’s success. What are the outcomes you hope to achieve?

Step 6: Implement the knowledge transfer plan.

As important as the overall planning may be, employers must be committed to putting the plan in action.

Step 7: Monitor and evaluate the outcome using the measures identified in Step 5.

Trucking HR Canada has tools to help your knowledge transfer plan—visit for more information, and follow us on Twitter@truckingHR.

Angela Splinter is CEO of Trucking HR Canada.

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