even years for newer team members to get caught up,” he says. “Having formal knowledge
transfer policies and practices makes it possible to onboard a person into a new industry or a
new project in a very short span of time, and provides relevant historical data and information
to support decision-making.”
But implementing these processes can be a battle against inertia. A shortage of time, resources
and executive sponsorship will stall the best-planned program. To successfully build a knowl-
edge transfer framework, an organization first must develop a culture of collaboration, says
Sónia Peleja, PMP, project manager, Altran Portugal, Lisbon, Portugal.
“Knowledge transfer presupposes there is a sharing of competencies, which may have been
acquired in formal ways, such as in-class training, or as a result of daily experiences, by interacting with other people, cultures or environments,” Ms. Peleja says.
Regardless of the techniques used, successful knowledge transfer should be a top-down process,
says Ms. Vilkauskas. She recommends project leaders and practitioners begin the building process
by seeking executive sponsorship and support.
Closing the Global Skills Gap
The need for formal knowledge transfer processes is exacerbated by the global talent crisis. In 2014, 36 percent of em- ployers indicated they had trouble filling
jobs—the highest percentage since 2007, according
to human resources consultancy ManpowerGroup.
The ManpowerGroup Talent Shortage Survey 2014
says the crunch is being felt in both established and
emerging markets. In Japan, for instance, where the
median population age is 46, 81 percent of employers say filling jobs is difficult. In India, where the
median population age is 27, 64 percent of employers say the same.
In established markets, the challenge reflects an
accelerating loss of mature talent to retirement; in
emerging markets, the difficulty stems from a surge
of young talent lacking practical training and experience. And as root causes vary, so do the obstacles
project managers need to overcome.
In Portugal, for instance, executive sponsors often are
hesitant to create a formal knowledge transfer program
because they believe employee knowledge already
belongs to the organization, says Sónia Peleja, PMP,
project manager, Altran Portugal, Lisbon, Portugal.
“We have been brought up understanding training
almost as part of our wages,” she explains. “It is usual
to have ‘learning contracts’ where you’re forced to pay
the training costs to the company if you leave before a
given time. What companies haven’t understood is that
the knowledge goes with you. There’s no money in the
world that can pay them back that investment.”
In other environments, practitioners put up road-
blocks. In especially competitive economies, senior
employees avoid participating in knowledge transfer
programs for fear of being diminished or replaced by
new colleagues and technologies.
“Sometimes knowledge is jumbled with power,
and that creates risk for companies,” says Alessandra
Rodrigues Almeida, PMP, head of project and process
management office, Serasa Experian, São Paulo,
Brazil. “So, it is important to understand the
web of power and break it, if necessary, to
avoid impacting the future of the business.”
But breaking the web of power is easier
said than done. A good first step is creating
a culture that values experience, says Tracy
Vilkauskas, PMP, senior project manager,
Cable One Inc., Phoenix, Arizona, USA.
“I would like to see a shift in consciousness
where organizations recognize how much
value these senior-level employees offer and
capitalize on that by giving them opportunities to help the organization as a whole by
sharing the knowledge they have,” she says.
In addition to fueling a collaborative
culture, organizations also must create
intergenerational teams to maximize the
value of knowledge transfer programs. But
getting team members of all ages to work
together isn’t just about encouraging them
to swap insider expertise and software shortcuts.
It’s about closing strategic skill gaps—and filling the
“For me, the key is being deliberate,” Ms. Vilkauskas says. “You see a gap that exists, or is about to
exist, and you take specific action to ensure that the
relevant knowledge base is transitioned successfully
from one individual or group to another.”
Almeida, PMP, Serasa
Experian, São Paulo, Brazil