How to Lose a Star but Keep the Starlight

In the Harvard Business Review, Rebecca Knight passes along some expert insight into how best to pass on the wisdom of high-performing employees when they leave your organization. One suggestion she offers is to create an apprenticeship of sorts for their successors:

If you have months for a transition, [Dorothy Leonard, professor emerita at Harvard Business School,] suggests creating a “carefully constructed action plan of learning,” whereby the “highly skilled, deep smarts employee is paired with one or more replacements” so they can observe her in action, learn and practice new skills, and receive feedback on their performance. Consider it “an accelerated apprenticeship.” The learner might sit in on a conference call to hear how the expert pitches clients or attend a meeting to observe her soliciting input from colleagues in another department. After a period of shadowing, give successors a series of “mini-experiences” so they can try doing the tasks on their own. “We don’t learn deeply by checklists or lectures,” Leonard says. “We learn by doing.”

Knight’s sources also strongly recommend that you focus on maintaining good relationships with former star employees, starting in the offboarding process. Those relationships leave the door open for you to come to them with questions later or hire them back as consultants or “boomerang employees.”

This is all useful advice, to be sure, but I’d love to see an article that also looks at deciding what knowledge not to transfer. Almost anyone who leaves is also taking with them a few weaknesses you don’t want duplicated by the next person—how do you prevent that from being transitioned?