When highly experienced experts and specialists, engineers, or function leaders leave the organisation, they take massive experience-based knowledge with them – unique knowledge that is often nowhere documented. When that happens, one of your most critical organisation assets, deep expertise of the most valuable people, is at stake. The retirement of the boomer generation is the most visible and urgent need to safeguard critical knowledge and pass it on to the next generation. Not to mention the ever ongoing take overs, collective dismissals, and the daily stream of promotions and transfers – all cases in which the loss of expertise is prominent, whether for the organisation, or the place where needed.

This is no news for most organisations. However, it gets harder to find organisations that actually achieve doing something about it. Here’s how these companies do in 5 steps:

1.  Build a case of how the loss of critical expertise impacts your organisation. Today and in the future. Create a compelling story to illustrate the importance of critical expertise. Why is safeguarding critical knowledge so important for the organisation? Look beyond the direct costs of replacing an expert: What is the impact of bad decisions made by less experienced colleagues? What is the impact for the team that stays behind? What is the value of the network connections of the expert leaving? The amount of impact depends on the number of years the expert has spent in the field and in your organisation, the extent to which the knowledge field is critical for the organisation, and the reach of the expert’s network within and outside the organisation.

2.  Identify the most essential areas of knowledge and know-how. To start, first make a quantitative estimation. Where do you have large groups on engineers, medical specialists, ICT-specialists, or other areas of expertise that are critical for the organisation? Then, find out who are the top experts within those groups. This are not necessarily those you have on your list of high performers: who are the “go-to people” in your organisation? Who will retire in the coming years? Once you know who these people are, map out their fields of knowledge: what exactly is the knowledge that makes these people so valuable? How does that person handle the same information or situations differently than those less experienced? What makes this person anticipate emerging issues better? Which criteria does that person (often unconsciously or intuitively) use in decision-making? To do this, you can use guiding interview protocols and visual ways of documenting that deep lying knowledge. Time will be your limiting factor to do this well. Therefore, it is important to map out all critical domains of expertise up front.

3.  Use proven techniques to foster knowledge transfer before loss is imminent. Many companies have large knowledge bases, covering all detail. The problem is often how to make sure this knowledge is actually used. How can the transfer be fostered effectively and timely? How to bring current and future experts together in the best possible way? Are ‘Critical Incident Investigations’ and ‘After Action Reviews’ well embedded in the organisation? Is bit-sized video-learning in place? Does the company culture give people permission not to know everything and not having the one simple and right answer straight away? Can failure experiences be discussed openly? Or are knowledge and ‘who I know’ still a source of power and reputation?

4.  Set up long term programmes to pass on critical knowledge. Adjust existing mentoring programmes to better aim on passing on critical knowledge. Create a programme that ensures successors are timely identified and knowledge transfer starts early and is done over time. Much of the transfer of the ‘secrets of the profession’ can be realised by having a plan and working the plan. Why wait until 3 months before retirement to then make a quick fix on knowledge transfer during a ‘handover meeting’? Did your try out job sharing programmes?

5.  Evaluate and learn from the successes and failure of your initiatives. How strong are your internal expert networks? Where on the novice to expert scale are your people?


Expertized! works along the lines of the five expert dimensions to help individuals, teams and companies to maximize their impact. Due to the big difference in types of experts – between legal experts and marketing professionals for instance – we regularly find that there is a lot of work to be done in the social recognition area because they don’t speak or quite understand each other’s language.

Experts are usually independent souls that are very passionate about their work, but are not very open to management interference. So how can you manage experts in such a way that it doesn’t feel like managing? What kind of secondary conditions are needed for experts to be most productive and innovative?

Expertized! offers solutions that close the gap between expert motives and management goals. We clear up the fog and make clear in which of the five areas individuals, departments or organisations need to change. Thanks to our scientific approach and years of training experience we’ve guided experts to new heights and have had a positive impact on all kind of companies.


Do you want to increase your impact as an individual or company? Press here to find out more, or feel free to contact us

Michael Richardson: michael@expertized.nl, +31 (0) 641015061

Lonneke Frie: lonneke@expertized.nl, +31 (0) 624097385

Jan Valcke: jan@expertized.nl, +31 (0) 630668640