Sonja Gustafson here—Marketing Manager for The Steve Trautman Co.—and I’ve taken on blogging duties this week to introduce an interview of Steve Trautman by summit organizers marcus evans on the topic of workforce risk management. Marcus evans is a leading event planner and learning organization, and Steve will be at the marcus evans Corporate Learning & Talent Development Summit 2012 in Braselton, Georgia, on April 22 – 24. The Summit brings together talent management executives from across North America for strategic summit sessions, one-on-one business meetings, and networking opportunities.

Marcus evans—recognizing Steve as a thought leader in the field of knowledge transfer—recently published this press release and conducted the below interview with Steve that highlights the benefits of knowledge transfer programs for managing talent and mitigating workforce risks. It’s a quick and insightful piece. Here’s what Steve has say:

Q. MARCUS EVANS: Why do organizations overlook talent risk management?

Steve Trautman: Organizations manage other risks systematically and with great rigor, but very few think of talent in the same way. For example, they manage litigation risk with contracts and insurance policies, and work with multiple vendors to reduce their supply chain risk.

When it comes to talent, CLOs hope that having a leadership succession plan is enough—but they must think of the workforce more holistically. At the moment, very few CLOs can say with any degree of certainty that their organization has the workforce it needs to meet its one- to three-year goals and strategies.

It is ironic then that most organizations claim their people are their most important asset.

Q. What process for assessing talent risk would you propose?

Every team is made up of experts who often have unique technical and professional knowledge. CLOs should start by identifying the knowledge silos that exist within a particular group; list all the areas of expertise and inventory the employees who are experts in them. They should then consider which of these experts are doing the work in a way that the CLO would like to replicate in others. These experts can be trained to methodically transfer their unique knowledge on the job to identified peers and successors—reducing risk along the way.

Q. Can you discuss the issue of brain drain and cross-generational knowledge transfer?

Because of the issue of North America’s aging workforce, many firms will lose 30% of their most senior workers over the next three to five years. Brain drain is already a crisis for many organizations, as they do not know how to replicate the knowledge of their people before they depart. Often, the knowledge must be transferred from retirement age workers to a generation right out of college and this poses some interesting, though manageable, challenges.

We worked with a company that had a single person with decades of experience responsible for picking the sugar syrups for its new food products. When he gave his 30-day notice, we spun up an emergency knowledge transfer process to map out his last 30 days almost to the hour so that we could transfer his unique knowledge to two other workers in the company.

Q. How can years’ worth of knowledge be transferred easily?

Of course, we cannot instantly replace the wisdom and experience gathered over many years by an employee, but we can dramatically reduce the time it takes someone to act like a 30-year veteran. We can quickly deconstruct how the expert does what he or she does so successfully, and prepare simple action steps that peers and successors can take in a methodical order.

The knowledge transfer system also allows CLOs to quickly identify the people who were never going to be competent. Knowledge transfer’s methodical onboarding plans expose whether or not workers are making real, measurable progress within 90 to 120 days—if not, that will indicate to CLOs a very clear action to be taken.

Q. Any final comments?

Frame your talent discussions around reducing risk so that your organization will have enough of critical skills at the right time in the right location to execute your business strategies.

COMING UP NEXT WEEK: An exciting new blog feature—Steve Trautman’s “5 Questions with…,”—which every other month will showcase a senior executive’s thoughts on knowledge transfer and talent management. First up: Christy Kingsbury of CBRE, Inc., a leader in global real estate services.