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Conducting Knowledge-Capturing Sessions With Departing Employees

This tool describes how to run facilitated knowledge-capturing sessions with departing employees.

Expertise is best gathered by asking the employee to talk about what they know in a semi-structured, facilitated session. Although reading relevant written materials and observing an employee in action (e.g., on the job) are useful for gaining a background in a knowledge domain, to capture accurately what the departing employee know often requires asking them to describe what they know and do. Thus, a knowledge gathering session consists of one or two facilitators and one or more employees. Having multiple employees in the group allows them to build on each other's thoughts and comments and may generate more complete information as opposed to conducting individual interviews.

During the introduction, explain clearly that the session will be employee centered - that is, the facilitators are not the experts in the subject matter but are there to ask questions and document what the employee says.

Establish expectations of participation up front - for example, explain how long the session will be, the frequency of breaks and the, estimated time available for meal breaks.

If there are others in the session in addition to the facilitator(s) and the departing employee, be sure that the others understand that the process should focus on the employee. For example, it is a good idea to explain to the others not to talk during the session. If they have a relevant thought or idea, they should jot it down and present it to the facilitators later. Also, be alert for non-participants who want to provide their own views or attempt to clarify what the employee "meant to say." The employee should feel that they are being heard and shaping the results.

During a knowledge-capturing process, the facilitator(s) guides the session through some logical structure or sequence. For example, if the goal is to understand what skills are required to perform a job, the facilitators may want to ask employee first to describe the major duties and tasks of the job. Then, using this framework, the facilitator(s) can ask the employee to explain what skills the job requires, given these duties and tasks. Or, suppose the goal is to understand how the employee makes decisions. The facilitator could first have the employee describe the types of decisions they make, then the steps they follow in making each decision, including the information they consider and what they do to ensure success.


Last Updated: 5/13/09