A Foundation of Community

Knowledge Transfer Requires Employees To Feel Valued

By Gina M. Hortillosa, PMP

When I presented at PMI® Global Congress 2016—North America, I asked attendees about knowledge transfer at their organizations. Most said their organizations had some level of ongoing knowledge transfer efforts, and some even had formal programs. However, of the approximately 100 attendees, only five considered their organization's knowledge transfer efforts to be effective.

I wasn't surprised. I've noticed that organizations struggle with knowledge transfer because too many of them believe it merely means having a set of formal processes such as job shadowing, guided knowledge application and training. But in my experience, that's not enough. Employees will bother following knowledge transfer processes only if they feel a sense of community—if they have a deep connection to their organization, their team and the work at hand. This sense is what makes team members eager to exchange valuable information with each other—and that's the basis of knowledge transfer.

Project managers interested in better knowledge transfer must first foster this sense of community by truly caring about their teams. I ask my team members specific questions: What do you hope to learn with this project? Do you have the resources you need to complete the project? Do you feel part of a community here? Do you have certain family circumstances that require a flexible work schedule? In addition, at my recurring team meetings, I label the first agenda item “successes and celebrations.” Team members are invited to share project or personal successes. My intention is to demonstrate that we care about the whole person, not just his or her contribution to the project. By the time I get to my last agenda item, “share one lesson learned,” employees readily contribute actionable information about the project.


Another method of generating a feeling of community is through mentoring. Early in my career, I was fortunate to have two mentors who shared their experience and wisdom. They were both very busy, but they made a personal investment that made me feel intrinsically valued and appreciated—as an employee and as a person. As a result, I eagerly absorbed the information they shared. Now I work to mentor and coach younger employees at my organization.

Knowledge transfer is a natural human dynamic, but it is most effective under the right circumstances. Project managers must learn to set the stage for those circumstances. PM

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img Gina M. Hortillosa, PMP, is interim program planning manager for Snohomish County, Everett, Washington, USA.
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