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Training a successor - Cognis Performance Chemicals UK Ltd

Company profile

Cognis Performance Chemicals UK LtdCognis Group is a leading speciality chemical company, with more than 100 years experience producing high-specification products in a technology driven market. They develop innovative products and solutions for personal care, home care and modern nutrition products for numerous industrial markets. In the UK they employ over 200 people in the head office and manufacturing site at Hythe, Hampshire.

Company challenge

Cognis UK is a knowledge-intensive organisation that faced the problem of losing a great deal of 'tacit knowledge' with the impending retirement of a senior plant manager. This individual had had a lifetime's experience in his field and a wealth of knowledge as it applied to the business, which if lost, could have serious cost and opportunity implications. The challenge was to develop a knowledge transfer process, which would retain the knowledge of the individual within the organisation.

The solution

The University of Portsmouth Business School used a technique known as 'knowledge mapping' to capture the individual's knowledge and develop a systematic approach to transferring that knowledge across the organisation. The retiree was given ownership of the project and managed it in conjunction with a facilitator from the University.

Knowledge was captured by a variety of means, such as written notes, file notes, knowledge maps, databases, email, intranet and 'document mining' and was filed within the knowledge framework developed for this project. Employees with different roles and at different levels of seniority were included in the original knowledge groups, to ensure a diversity of expertise.

The benefits

The consultancy project were:

  • Knowledge that was vital to the business and which would have otherwise been lost was retained and is now held in a database that can be queried at any time.
  • Cognis now have an on-going practice of managing and collecting knowledge, updating the database, after recognising that knowledge transfer is an important process at all stages in the employee's work life.
  • The practice of including employees from a variety of departments and at different levels has been maintained, ensuring that knowledge from across the organisation is collated.

"Having someone come in from outside the business was useful in helping us to understand exactly what was needed. The University was adept at dealing with real business issues, quick to respond to our problem and extremely professional"
Dr. Herbert Wogatzki, Site Manager, Cognis UK Ltd.

Next steps

Knowledge group meetings now take place monthly and feedback from the employees involved has been very positive. It is currently being rolled-out throughout the site at Hythe and work is being done to refine the project and develop the system.

University contact

Dr David Hall, Portsmouth Business School

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