Source: Harvard Business Review

While it can be difficult, capturing a departing employee’s expertise and knowledge prior to their end date is an important step for companies to take, writes Rebecca Knight in an article for Harvard Business Review. This often involves a flurry of project wrap-ups, paperwork and exit interviews, but Knight says this process can be cut short with time constraints.

Failing to capture a departing employee’s industry-specific knowledge and experience makes their loss that much more noticeable. According to Knight, while you won’t be able to clone a valuable employee, you can identify the behaviors, thought patterns and processes that made them successful to pass along to future employees. The following are Knight’s suggestions to successfully capture an employee’s knowledge and skills before they leave.

Make a Plan

The first step is to lay out a plan for how you will collect the employee’s knowledge, what timeline you have to work with and how you will transfer that knowledge to other employees. If possible, Knight recommends asking the employee for a few months notice prior to their departure to give the company time to find a replacement, whether developed internally or hired from outside the company.

Motivate the Expert

Next, Knight says it’s important to motivate the departing employee to share as much of their knowledge with others before they leave as possible. This can involve finding a structured way for the employee to transfer their knowledge or even helping the employee become aware of how much knowledge they have to share.

Create Apprenticeships

If you have a long timeline to make the transition, a few months for example, Knight writes that creating an apprenticeship program whereby a new employee can observe and be mentored by the departing employee can give the new employee a deeper understanding of the role and duties than checklists or notes would.

Emphasize Team Learning

Conversely, if you are working on a short timeline and don’t have time to find a replacement for the employee prior to their departure, Knight says the departing employee should be encouraged to share stories with other employees about how they handled different situations. This, she writes, will provide insights into the employee’s thought processes and allow all team members to absorb that information.

Document Selectively

Comprehensive reports written by departing employees on how to do their job are often overlooked or given little effort as a task that involves too much time, but logs written by other employees with observations on what the departing employee does and how they do it can be useful as a kind of database of knowledge, she says.

Focus on the Relationship

The single best way to retain an employee’s expertise and knowledge is to maintain a relationship with them, allowing you to reach out with the occasional question and leaving the possibility of hiring them again in the future open, Knight concludes.