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High Turnover Rates : Transfering Knowledge PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Corina Mihaela Paraschiv   
Tuesday, 11 December 2007 00:24


     One thing with student and young professional associations is the very high turnover rate. Every year – if not every two or three years - the members change as they move on in their lives and all the knowledge they acquired through their short stay leaves with them. So how do you recuperate this knowledge and how can you transfer it to incoming members?




      Shadowing can be an easy way of helping the transition from the knowledgeable people in your club to others. It consists of having the new member look at how the job is being accomplished by a more senior member. It can be a rather difficult process in the context of a club which accomplishes most of the work from distance and then meets up together only for fellowship, decision-making and review of work accomplished. However, it could still be done if the learning member exchanges a lot on what he observered with his mentor. Actually, if they didn't discuss it together, the learning probably wouldn't be as effective as they need to validate observations and deepend their understanding through dialogues.


Joint Problem-Solving


    Joint Problem-Solving is another insightful way of transfering knowledge. Often, people just do tasks in a routinely way or in an unstructured way and when asked to write a document about what has been done and how their task can be taken over, they do not know how to describe their activities in systematic, step-by-step instructions. By working together, the observant has an active opportunity to decorticate the process and to question as things are going on why things are done that way.


The Problem with Knowledge Management


     Transfering knowledge from one person to another is a good step but there can still be problems with that situation; what if one person leaves too quickly and the other person doesn't have time to learn? What if someone else in the organization has some knowledge a new member could use but isn't aware of it? What if someone is playing prima donna and is making himself indispensible through the knowledge he detains?



Knowledge Management Systems : Technology to the rescue


     Knowledge management is at the root of all of these scenarios : How do we manage the knowledge present in organizations? The easiest way to record all this is through systems like CRM and spreadsheets and such; it's not difficult to keep a copy handy of a business plan one of your members might have writen for one of his marketing course, or lists of members that joined and the such. What's more difficult is all of this information inside people's head, the type of information we call tacit information. It's hard because as a leader, you want to get people to realize what is worth sharing and what isn't. To give you a concrete idea, a friend of mine on a project was trying to sell postcards, and when asked I gave her a few ideas based on courses we had seen in marketing and she said “wow you should tell us these kind of things more often, we never even think things like that exist”. And I never even think things like that can interest non-business students. The amazing thing with clubs as diverse as yours and mine are is that with this deiversity comes a wealth of knowledge and it is to our advantage to learn how to capture it.


     One of the solutions our team has implemented is the use of groupware, like facebook and airset. These are tools that let us centralize all of our documentation and discussions so that they may be accessible to all members at their convenience. Emails are also useful, although they hard to manage. I was amused by an incident that happened; a fellow member was complaining that I always wrote long emails (which I did to account for missed meetings when we couldn't hold our weekly reunions) and when I turned over the club to the new executive committee she found herself writing long and frequent emails and joked : “I'm turning into Corina now!”. Truth is it is inevitable to write emails and a challenge will be to understand how to structure them so they are read. Instant messaging also helped for keeping in touch but they are in my experience the most inefficient way to make a decision; so much of the non-verbal communication gets lost through it.  A multitude of other solutions are used by clubs regularly, ranging from forums to project tracking systems.  The different tupes of tools can be classified : tools that gather information and data, expertise access tools, e-learning applications, discussion and chat technologies, synchronous interaction tools, and search and data mining tools (Meredith Levinson). They are all efficient tools – and you may get a lot out of them provided you surmount the challenges of implementing it.


Last Updated ( Tuesday, 11 December 2007 00:42 )

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