Knowledge Transfer and Peer Mentoring at SONGS A Case Study

By Pauline Alten San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station 14300 Mesa Road, San Clemente, CA, 92672,

INTRODUCTION The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) has begun a Knowledge Transfer program to address three key problems at the site: 1. Sixty per cent (60%) of on-site engineers are within 5 years of retirement 2. With each retirement, 2-4 people change roles thru hiring, promotion and/or transfer 3. Unique knowledge was held by many engineers with inconsistent backups designated. SONGS needed a methodical, measurable framework and program to address these timesensitive needs, all in the context of the ACAD objectives. Goals:  Create a knowledge transfer framework that supports proactive, methodical, measurable on-the-job training. Prepare for the upcoming accreditation review audit to show how engineering training is evolving to ensure a capable, safe workforce in the future. Improve the time to bring a replacement engineer to full capacity by 50% from 3-5 years to 18 months

KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER PROJECT Strategy: SONGS took an inventory of knowledge domains or “silos,” identified known experts for each silo, noted gaps revealed by the inventory, and then planned and trained employees to fill these gaps, all under the active and engaged management of supervisors. Implementation: Some 350 knowledge “silos” were uncovered and documented through a process of management discussion and employee interviews. Once the silos were known, individual employees with silo expertise were designated “Peer Mentors” to encourage methodical development of skills with the Peer Mentor as a key training resource. In addition to identifying silo Peer Mentors, each silo was analyzed to determine associated risk, using such criteria as mission priority, current on-site expertise, retirement window (timeframe), difficulty in hiring expertise from outside, and overall skill complexity to allow time for ramp-up. For each silo, a Master Skill Development plan was drafted which broke out the individual skills required to do the work in that silo, and for each employee a customized plan to learn these skills was written and documented in their Professional Development Plan. Figure 1

RESULTS SONGS now has in place a Knowledge Silo Matrix populated with over 300 silos, identifying skills needed within the workplace. It inventories every engineer on-site for a “dashboard” type view for both employees and managers to use in professional development. Additionally, dozens of measurable Skill Development Plans have been completed, with hundreds more to follow in the coming months. A professional program is now in place to ensure true knowledge transfer is taking place in a methodical way. In the words of a recently interviewed supervisor who went through the process, “I believe we took 6-8 months off the process of ramping up the new systems engineer.” Lastly, senior leaders from engineering are meeting regularly to review the high risk silos and discuss the steps being taken to improve bench strength. Since they are tracking progress via the KSM and the SDPs, this conversation is quick and based on clear and measurable expectations.

Fig. 1. Knowledge Silo Matrix

Figure 2 Customized Skill Development Plan for each Silo

REFERENCES Training: SONGS now understood what silos and skills were important, who was most competent to teach those skills and who needed to learn. Managers now had a measured process for holding individual employees accountable to act as mentors and for “apprentices” to take responsibility for their own training, and execute their professional development plans. A Knowledge Transfer Workshop was put in place to provide tools and processes to help the on-site experts transfer their knowledge. This training program was written specifically for engineers to turn what is traditionally seen as a “soft” skill into a step by step process that is simple to do, even with a busy schedule. 1. S. TRAUTMAN, Teach What You Know, Prentice Hall, New York City, New York (2006).

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