Your role as a Grants Manager cannot be reduced to a few pages of instructions. The same can most likely be said for every member of your team, and things get even more complicated when you have a small grants team with people filling multiple roles. Passing on wisdom and expertise that are related to grants management can be a full-time job in and of itself. If your organization is under-resourced, or if you have recently experienced staff turnover, you know this all too well.
You need a way to pass on all the information that may currently be taking up residence in the minds of your grants team to new staff, or people entering new roles in the process.
Knowledge transfer is what will get you there, and to accomplish it, you will need a plan.
What is knowledge transfer?
Knowledge transfer can be thought of as a collection of best practices, process-specific information, and other details that are necessary for your grants team to function efficiently and in a standardized manner.
Knowledge transfer is not the same as formal training in a classroom environment. Knowledge transfer occurs on the job from peer to peer.
An effective knowledge transfer plan doesn’t just prepare for staff turnover but can also help your existing team collaborate more effectively.
What does knowledge transfer involve?
A good knowledge transfer plan will be attentive to two kinds of knowledge that need to be shared with new team members: explicit knowledge, and tacit knowledge.
Explicit knowledge includes materials like documented procedures and processes, or step-by-step instructions on how to perform an aspect of a job. Tacit knowledge is much harder to document, and it is also the material where your expertise matters most in some cases; things like when to ask for help, who to contact, what to watch out for throughout the process, and more.
The functions that are required of your role are not the only things that make you effective in your role, and this is the information that you want to capture and document. A good guiding question you can ask yourself to get started is “what do I wish I would have known when I began working in this role?” Make sure to ask your team members the same question, and document the responses.
What should I prioritize?
Ideally, you should begin planning for knowledge transfer before you need it.
What are the roles that are critical to the grant management process where the most knowledge loss would occur if a team member to the organization?
Is there cross-functional knowledge that should be shared between departments that could help them run more efficiently?
What critical information can be learned in other avenues like formal orientations or training sessions?
How do I make a plan?
You can use something as simple as a spreadsheet or a table to organize your data to make a structured plan.
Who is the person who has this knowledge?
What tasks do they oversee?
Does anyone else in the organization have access to their knowledge?
What would be the organizational impact if this person left tomorrow?
The purpose of answering these questions is to not only determine priority, but also to determine the resources you will need to effectively transfer this knowledge. You may discover that you need to employ a few methods to successfully accomplish knowledge transfer with key roles. Some example methods are:
Mentoring – Mentoring is an extremely effective method for creating knowledge transfer, but this can also be a slower, resource-intensive process. If you have the time, however, mentoring is a best practice.
Shadowing – Shadowing is also an effective method of knowledge transfer that is based on observation. This is a good method to employ if someone in your organization wants to move into a new role, or if someone is taking on new functions of their role.
Paired work – Paired work is an opportunity to have two new employees create tacit knowledge together. Two team members who are either new or in a new role, that are performing the same task, are put together to work through a task together without much guidance. This may seem counterintuitive at first glance, but knowledge that is built collaboratively tends to be more efficient and enables transfer later.
Once you have a better understanding of the knowledge you are trying to capture and transfer, then have prioritized it and determined the best method to share it, you will have more information at your disposal to make a targeted plan to relay to your team.