We’ve seen statistics about the public sector workforce graying. We know retirements are imminent. And at the same time, younger workers are more mobile in their careers than previous generations. When folks leave their positions, they take their expertise out the door with them. In light of these trends, it’s more important than ever for govies to find creative ways to capture and pass on knowledge to those who will be stepping into the vacancies.
The mission of your organization can only be accomplished by people with the knowledge, skills, and initiative to make things happen. Capturing and sharing even some of the basics can go a long way in equipping current and future employees to carry on your organization’s important work.
Consider What You Have to Offer
Take some time to think about your experience, such as:
- What major initiatives have you been part of (current or past)?
- Which processes have you established or improved?
- What activities do you do regularly so your organization runs smoothly?
- What steps do you take to ensure things get done right?
- How do you work across organizational lines to accomplish tasks?
- What advice or ideas do you have for someone just starting out in your organization?
These kinds of questions can spur your thinking about how much you have to offer. Once you have some ideas of what knowledge you’d like to share, consider the best ways to pass it on to others.
9 Ways to “Pass It On”
There are a variety of ways you can capture and share your knowledge and experience to benefit current and future govies. Knowledge sharing can happen anywhere at any time. Below are some ideas to consider. Which could you do this week? What would you add to this list?
1. Be Approachable
Display kindness and contribute at work. This lets others know you’re willing to share your knowledge. Though you have much to offer, people may not tap into your knowledge if they sense barriers to connection. Fellow employees will be more likely to feel comfortable coming to you with questions and listening to your expertise if you’re approachable.
2. On the Job Opportunities
Day-to-day opportunities abound. Share files with other business areas to help streamline processes, have a quick chat in the elevator about job roles, or call a friend in another unit seeking help solving a problem. Everyone you work with has their own pool of knowledge based on personal job history and life experiences. Seek out opportunities during your daily grind to share and learn from others.
3. Document Lessons Learned
Major projects, especially in IT, often incorporate some kind of post implementation review. But this kind of review can be done after smaller scale projects or events. Take a step back after a project or event to consider your lessons learned: what went well, what could have gone better, and what would be done differently if the project were to be undertaken again. Depending on the situation, this can be accomplished individually or in a brainstorming session with key players. Lessons learned capture a wealth of valuable knowledge for the next time employees are undertaking the same or similar project.
4. Charter Current Projects and Teams
Develop high level summaries of current teams or projects that have an impact on the work you do. A one to two page document showing highlights or key information about the purpose, scope, time frame, milestones, and persons involved in a team or project can be very helpful to current and future endeavors.
5. Create (or Update) Process and Procedure Documents
Though most of us find it tedious to document step-by-step the everyday processes we do on a regular basis, this kind of information can be critical to ensuring consistency and quality with current staff and facilitate onboarding new employees. Examples include desk manuals, standard operating procedures, or simple job aid flowcharts or checklists. Ensure the documents are kept current and easily accessible for anyone doing that work.
6. Build Mentorship Relationships
Whether through a formal program or an informal connection, mentorship is an excellent way to share knowledge while building a mutually rewarding professional relationship. Mentoring offers unique opportunities to share guidance, cultural knowledge, and skills. Newer employees are often looking for mentors to help show them the ropes, so that may be a good place to start.
7. Make a Mind Map
Mind mapping allows an individual or small group map out their thought process on a given topic. Use a mind map to document the way you or your colleagues approach an important process in your work. Giving others a glimpse into the nuances of a complex topic can help them learn and see the bigger picture.
8. Get on the Agenda
Carve out some time at staff meetings or schedule a “lunch and learn” series for colleagues to briefly share about the work they do. These could be short talks, demonstrations, case studies, or even a panel discussion. The purpose is to raise awareness about the work being done and help employees see connections between the various projects and processes. These opportunities foster teambuilding and networking which may lead to informal mentoring relationships.
9. Establish Organization-Wide Knowledge Transfer Initiatives
By far the most demanding item on the list, working with leaders to establish strategic, organization-wide knowledge transfer initiatives can go a long way to ensure your organization is prepared for the loss of knowledgeable staff. Often, these initiatives are compiled into a plan with strategies to mitigate risks so the organization can meet critical strategic objectives. Examples of organization-wide knowledge transfer initiatives include: mentoring programs, staff events, training programs, interviews, process and procedure documentation, and more. The US Office of Personnel Management and the California Department of Human Resources have excellent guides and resources related to these efforts in government.
Danielle Metzinger is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.