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Knowledge Transfer





Steps to Successful Knowledge Transfer

Needs Assessment 

Training Needs Analysis 

Knowledge Transfer Activities and Plan 

Supporting colleagues through the learning process



Learning is described as '‘the process of acquiring knowledge through experience which leads to an enduring change in behaviour’’ Huczynski and Buchanan, 2007.


In order for individuals to make change happen, they must understand how to change and perform effectively in the new desired way. This is done through effective knowledge transfer. The knowledge transfer process takes careful planning to achieve the desired results. In this section we'll explore ways to do this successfully. 


Steps to Successful Knowledge Transfer 

You should answer these four questions before carrying out any decision, activity or action that requires people to know or do something differently: 

4 key questions process diagram

So, how do you answer these questions? You will already have the answers to the first two questions through:

1. Stakeholder Analysis (Who is affected?)

2. Change Impact Assessment (How are they affected?) 

Once you have this information, you can start to assess the needs of your stakeholders.

Needs Assessment

The process flow diagram below sets out the steps involved in carrying out a needs assessment:

Knowledge Transfer Process Flow Diagram

Source: Adaptation of Christensen (2016) Concept Map

 A needs assessment will help you to determine what people need to know and do differently and whether training or non-training intervention is required.  If a lack of skills or knowledge is identified, training is the answer. However, sometimes the root cause can go beyond this, for example, people resisting the change even when they have sufficient skills and knowledge to make the change happen. In such cases, non-training intervention can help tackle these challenges.

It is important to analyse both to ensure the right interventions are used throughout the change process. You may decide that a mix of training and non-training intervention is the best solution. 

Performance Analysis using the 5 Whys Approach

 The 5 whys Approach is a problem-solving technique that involves asking “why'' repeatedly to drill down to the core cause of a specific behaviour or action. By determining the root cause, you can identify the best solution to enable and equip the individual or team to perform effectively. 

1. Identify the behaviour or action

  • For example: A team is not following all of the steps in a new process 

2. Ask the first why

  • Why did the problem occur?
  • E.g. Why were all the steps not followed?

3. Identify a cause/reason

  • Get an initial answer for your why question
  • E.g. Because some of the team members are not aware of the new process and steps involved and some don't agree with the new steps.

4. Ask why the identified cause happened

  • E.g. Why aren't some of the team members aware of the new process and steps involved? Why do some of the team members disagree?
  • Because some of the team members received training but some of the team members did not. Because some of the team members understand how to carry out the new steps but prefer the old way of working.

5. Continue asking "why" for each answer.

  • Typically five times in total or until you reach the root cause.
  • For each answer you have generated, ask a further ‘why’ in succession. The final "why" should reveal the root cause of the performance issue.
  • E.g. Why didn't those team members receive training? Why do those team members prefer the old way of working?
  • Because they were unavailable during the training period = training intervention. Because they said they don't like change and refuse to do it differently = non-training intervention.

If the root cause identified through the 5 whys approach is unrelated to lack of knowledge, skill or ability to make the desired change, non-training interventions are required. In the example above, communicating the case for change  and the benefits of the change at this time may help the individuals to better understand why the change is necessary and a good thing. The Line manager of the individuals may want to manage performance going forward through one to one meetings, action plans, observing and providing feedback, reward mechanisms, coaching etc.


Training Needs Analysis 

Training Needs Analysis is a valuable tool used to identify the gap between current levels of knowledge/skill/ability (KSA) and the desired level of KSA required to perform effectively in the future desired way. It will enable you to build a tailored Knowledge Transfer Plan that includes specific knowledge transfer activities that address those knowledge and skills gaps effectively. You can use this Training Needs Analysis Template to help you complete your training needs analysis and assessment.

Here are some key questions you should answer when completing your training needs analysis:

  • What do you want this individual/team to know and do differently during the transition and in BAU?
  • What new skills, knowledge and behaviours do you want people to display?
  • What level of knowledge, skill and ability to perform in the new desired way already exists?
  • What capacity does the individual/team have to learn something new?

 Training needs analysis should be completed when changes require individuals or teams to do something differently.  You should use information from your stakeholder analysis and impact assessment when carrying out your needs assessment. 

You should review and update your needs assessment regularly throughout the change process, particularly at key milestones and before people focused activities are carried out, to ensure proper plans are in place to support those impacted. We recommend completing our Change Management Checklist throughout the change process, which includes key questions you should answer throughout the change process.


Who should input into the Training Needs Analysis?

You should speak to relevant stakeholders to ensure a well-informed training needs analysis is completed. The individuals listed below can be consulted to assist in completing your assessment and plan: 

Resource: What are the best methods and tools for collecting data on the training needs of your target group? (

Defining your Learning Objectives

Once your needs analysis is complete, you can develop clear learning objectives to help you capture your desired outcomes. 

For each learning objective you should be able to finish the following sentence: ‘At the end of the learning journey, learners will be able to……’

SMART Objectives 

You can use SMART objectives to help you define these learning objectives. You should have a clear objective for each KSA gap identified, which demonstrates how you plan to close the gap and ensure people know how to change and perform effectively.  You will find that some of the learning requirements will require some training or procedural learning, whereas others will relate more to ‘soft skills’. Soft skills typically relate to the behavioural and personal preferences of people.  



Image source: Minesota Dept. of Health (

Knowledge Transfer Activities and Plan

Once your SMART objectives have been defined, you can select suitable training activities that will help you to meet your objectives and equip and enable those impacted.  Please speak to People Development  regarding training options. You should select appropriate training activities based on the identified needs of the audience. You should consider resources required to complete each activity and your timeline when selecting suitable activities.

Don't forget to think about the training activities required after the transition period and during BAU, as it may take longer for people to adopt and fully embed the change, so you should include activities to support learning after the change initiative or project has closed. Common training and knowledge transfer methods include:

 Training Activity Examples

Knowledge Transfer Plan 

We recommend that you create a Knowledge Transfer Plan using the headings below. You can incorporate these headings into your change impact assessment or add them to your existing planning documentation:

  1. Change Details
  2. Impacted Individuals
  3. Description of Impact 
  4. Knowledge/Skills/Ability gaps identified 
  5. SMART objectives
  6. Details of Training and Non-Training activities
  7. Schedule/Timeline of activities 
  8. Resource requirements
  9. Knowledge transfer evaluation/feedback mechanisms


Supporting colleagues through the learning process:

People learn in different ways and at a different paces so we should be mindful of this when selecting and scheduling suitable training activities.

Learning Styles (Honey and Mumford, 1986)

Peter Honey and Alan Mumford identify four distinct styles or preferences that people use while learning. They suggest that different learning activities may be better suited to particular styles and we should be aware of these differences when choosing suitable activities:

Learning Styles

Learning Journey (Burch, 1970)

The Conscious Competence Learning Model helps us to understand the journey people go on when learning something new. It has 4 stages:

  1. Unconscious Incompetence – you don’t know what you don’t know
  2. Conscious Incompetence – you know what you don’t know
  3. Conscious Competence – you know that you can do it now
  4. Unconscious Competence – you can do it without thinking about it

At stage 1, the individual or team is unaware of the need to learn something new. Activities are carried out in the usual way and those impacted by the change are unaware that they need to do something differently. In order to move from stage 1 to stage 2, those impacted by the change need to be made aware of the desired change and the reason for it. Communicating about the change will enable individuals to move to conscious incompetence.

At stage 2, it is important to encourage learning. Some will be more willing to learn something new than others, who may show signs of resistance. It's important to communicate the value of the change and its benefits to the University and on an individual level. Creating a safe learning environment is key to allow people to try new things without fear. Your non-training and training interventions will play a key role here in moving people from stage 2 to stage 3.

At stage 3, your interventions should have enabled people to change and work effectively. The change is still new and it will take some people longer than others to demonstrate their ability to perform in the new way. Giving people enough time and support to practice will enable them to move to stage 4. Make sure you have the right resources and support in place to help people adopt the changes and embed them. 

Stage 4 is the goal. Those impacted are able to perform effectively and are confident in the change. The change has been successfully embedded. You have achieved your SMART objectives and have successfully bridged the knowledge and skill gap.

The Learning Dip

The learning Dip Graph

Before basic competence is achieved productivity is likely to decline and quality of work. This is normal and should be expected. Plans should be put in place to manage this dip, to allow for people to transition fully and at a reasonable pace. The extent of the dip and the speed with which recovery takes place will be dependant on the effectiveness of the training provision.  

Resource: Performing Through the Learning Dip:

  • Show support. This could be as straightforward as acknowledging that things may take a little longer.
  • Remember that a drop in performance at this time is not a sign of failure or incompetence.
  • Review and update your Knowledge Transfer Plan regularly and ensure your training interventions are fulfilling your objectives. If you identify a prolonged dip, identify the reason for it and see whether more support, guidance or training is required.
  • Acknowledge when performance begins to climb back and celebrate the improvement that results. Line Managers play an important role here in celebrating wins and encouraging good behaviours.


  • Each of us has a different capacity to learn. Mix up your training methods and schedule enough time to allow people to learn at a reasonable pace. 
  • Why are we changing? People are more likely to engage with the new process, activity or action if they understand why it is necessary. Communicate your case for change at the start of the learning activity and make sure you highlight the benefits.
  • Practice makes perfect. Give people the opportunity to put learning into practice and relate teaching to real life problems and opportunities. People are more likely to accept the change and become consciously competent by bringing the learning to life.
  • Do I have the capacity to learn? Be mindful of others time and capacity to attend training and learn new things. Speak to your audience to understand their learning capacity and schedule learning activities accordingly to increase your chances of meeting your objectives. 
  • One isn't enough. In most cases, one training activity isn't enough to transfer knowledge so think about different ways you can teach the audience and remember those different learning styles.