15 Tips for Ensuring Efficient Knowledge Transfer
There is a skills shortage in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. Our Tip sheet explores how you can retain knowledge.
There is a skills shortage in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. Research shows that 90% of businesses have struggled to employ STEM professionals and technicians in 2019. The space needs more than 170,000 more skilled workers to fill the gap. Recruitment, temporary positions and additional training is costing the industry in the UK more than £1.5 billion every year. This means that there’s an industry-defining shortfall just around the corner, and things are looking bleak. Each day, 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age and when they leave, there will be nobody to pass their skills on to, meaning their years of knowledge will simply follow them out the door.
Before we write off the entire R&D and scientific research sectors though, there’s a solution. By reviewing and improving upon some current processes and technologies, not only can knowledge be transferred from one generation to the next, it can also become structured and usable for many decades to come.
Mentoring and shadowing
63% of millennials look for job with opportunities to grow and learn leadership skills and prefer mentoring as a method of learning.
To ensure that baby boomers have an opportunity to pass on their knowledge and experience before they exit the organization, partner them with a younger colleague. As the statistic shows, not only do Millennials see the opportunity to learn quickly in this scenario, but many of them have already started turning to more experienced colleagues for guidance and advice.
The solutions then, are to ensure that on the next research project or experiment, all baby boomers are accompanied by a younger colleague, or that teams are made up of a variety of age groups and experience levels. To generate the best outcome from this activity, be sure to ask for volunteers from both parties, as this will determine the staff members most enthused by the prospect.
Tip 1: Ask for mentoring volunteers from both your experienced staff and their less-experienced counterparts
Tip 2: Partner all baby boomer employees with younger staff and recent graduates
Tip 3: Ensure project teams are made up of employees from varied age groups and experience levels
Keep millennials engaged
Two-thirds of Millennials and Gen Z consider an organization’s embrace of technology and innovation as an important factor when looking for a job.
The Millennial graduates entering the industry (and your company) are digital natives. This means that if data is not presented on a screen, they are less likely to be engaged. With smartphones, tablets, laptops, smart watches, and a variety of other mobile devices, these employees are used to accessing information in the timeframe and on the gadget that suits them best. This means that in order to improve your knowledge transfer processes, look to digitize the documents and notebooks you currently have. By creating digital copies, not only does it make the data more ‘usable’ for Millennials, it also helps ensure the information will be preserved for many years to come.
Tip 4: Start by scanning or photographing existing documentation to create digital copies
Tip 5: Look to use technology and software that empowers and engages digital natives
Tip 6: Utilize technology which is available on mobile devices, to increase productivity among staff
Safeguard against catastrophic loss
Research shows that through 2021 the end-use market output of paper will increase by half a percent.
One of the main contributing factors to the lack of modern knowledge transfer, is written notes. Documents, images, and graphs created on paper have a finite lifespan, and prolonging this requires great care and attention. But more worryingly, paper documentation is susceptible to catastrophes such as fire or flood, not to mention environmental factors such as humidity. If your research facility was ravaged by fire, and all written data was lost, how would your organization cope? Would you be able to continue? As the statistic shows, many wouldn’t be able to. So, by digitizing content and saving it to the cloud, your company’s data will be safe, and so too will its ability to be used in future following an unforeseen disaster.
Tip 7: Upload all digitized data to the cloud for ‘safe keeping’
Tip 8: Create a disaster recovery team within the business and ensure they have access to the cloud storage
Tip 9: Implement working policies which ensure all employees upload findings and data to the cloud regularly
Overcoming the scale of findings
Original research articles are generally between 25 and 40 pages.
As baby boomers exit the business, and new Millennials join, there is a need for the new generation of workers to understand the experiments and findings that took place before their time. The current process of doing this, is to read through historical findings, reports, and experiment write-ups and try to understand the data. The issue however, lies in the referencing used in these written documents. Given that most experiments will reference images, graphs, and diagrams from other projects, whenever these are referenced in a report, the new employee has to go and find these too. They are now spending most of their time trying to find documents that were referenced in the original report, as opposed to actually reading it and digesting the information.
The solution then, is to once again digitize content, and in this instance, hyperlink from one document to another. This means that when a reference is used in a report, the reader can simply click the reference and it will open up the other document immediately – saving time and energy.
Tip 10: Ensure all referencing in digitized documents are hyperlinked
Tip 11: Upload all images, diagrams, and graphs, in order to make visual referencing easier
Tip 12: Use this hyperlinking technique to streamline any research processes companywide
Structured and searchable data
Only 7% of companies have fully implemented their digital transformations.
Another knowledge transfer benefit to digitized and cloud-stored data is the ‘searchable’ aspect. By using industry-leading software, it’s possible to not only gather and store digital information, it can also become a usable database for your entire organization. So, when new projects and experiments are taking place, it is quick and easy to locate and review previous articles, reports, and write-ups. This means that by digitizing the notes and information created by exiting baby boomers, it can be made widely available to any member of staff in future.
Additionally, the historical data can be viewed, downloaded, and amended on a variety of mobile devices and from any location (as long as there’s internet connection). So, not only can Millennials now engage with the information in a way that they recognize and prefer, but collaborative projects can now be more streamlined thanks to remote access.
Tip 13: Use cloud storage and document management to create searchable databases
Tip 14: Provide access to all employees company-wide to ensure knowledge sharing (security permissions allowing)
Tip 15: Use access privileges to streamline collaboration processes amongst colleagues and external partners
Software with electronic notebook functionality
The tips suggested in this guide not only help to ensure that the knowledge of your most experienced employees will be protected for many generations to come, but also helps to create a more future-proofed business. By using an industry-leading scientific informatics platform such as our E-WorkBook, all information, findings, reports, diagrams etc. can be created and saved digitally in real-time. All files will be saved in a searchable database, and permission-based access can be given to any chosen party. This means that knowledge sharing is ensured, and so too are streamlined and efficient projects and experiments in future.
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