Churn – the departure of experienced workers and their replacement by less knowledgeable newcomers – is a fact of organizational life. This poses a special challenge for workplace learning, namely the retention and transfer of essential job-related knowledge.

Essential knowledge comes from many different sources. Explicit, codified knowledge is found in written policies, procedural manuals, debriefing reports, and a host of other sources in both paper and digital forms. Implicit or tacit knowledge – also called experiential knowledge – resides mainly in the heads of experienced employees. Whether explicit or tacit, transferring this knowledge of how and why things are done to new employees is crucial to organizational continuity – and, in some cases, survival.

Many prescriptions have been offered for how to capture, preserve and transfer knowledge under these conditions, some focusing on technology-supported approaches such as knowledge repositories, e-learning, or online communities of practice, others on increased spending on traditional approaches such as codifying knowledge in procedures manuals, classroom training, “what-I-know” presentations by departing employees, or pre-departure job shadowing. What is often lacking is the perspective to see how solutions of both types can complement one another. Making connections – using the best features of a variety of “traditional” and technology-assisted knowledge transfer methods geared to the circumstances of the organization – seems to me to be the best way of meeting the knowledge transfer challenge.