Backsberg – a commitment to continuous transfer of knowledge

by | Apr 1, 2020 | Practical in the cellar, Winetech Technical

Front: Janika, Noeleen, Lydia, Nomine, Miena and Somila. Middle: Alicia, Shana and Lindiswa. Back: Riaan, Griffen, Henry, Brian, Jonathan (Johnny), Reagan, Mayoline (Mila), Amose and Abraham (Appie).

Backsberg Estate, one of the oldest cellars in the Paarl area, is a regular participant of the Winetech study groups since 2007. The estate believes in the development of cellar assistants’ knowledge with relevant training and skills development programmes. Alicia Rechner, winemaker of Backsberg, believes it is important to follow a holistic approach to develop the cellar team’s knowledge. New information to which cellar assistants are exposed to, as well as the interaction with fellow cellar assistants during training sessions, is considered valuable to individual development.

Informal mentoring relationships ensure that continuous transfer of knowledge takes place in the Backsberg cellar. The close collaboration which exists between Alicia and her team, ensures that they do not hesitate to ask questions, which leads to positive interaction. The cellar team always has questions after attending Winetech study group sessions, which in turn results in further transfer of knowledge. It is commonly known that close collaboration in the workplace, together with continuous transfer of knowledge, has immense positive effects, such as increasing employees’ productivity, improvement of the quality of work delivered and achieving goals.

Motivation is therefore important for the individual and the team, as it has a direct influence on positive cooperation in the workplace. The more motivated the team is, the more successful the achievement of goals will be. Job satisfaction can also be linked to motivation, due to an increased sense of engagement. Employees can easily perceive their work as not important. For this reason, skills development and transfer of knowledge play an important role to confirm where each individual fit into the bigger picture in the cellar environment and that their contributions are important.

Alicia said that transfer of knowledge can occasionally be challenging due to personnel changes on ground level. She is of the opinion that the development of cellar assistants’ knowledge which focuses only on winemaking procedures is not enough, as cellars must meet several administrative obligations and audits. She believes that there is a serious need for cellar assistants to have a better understanding of the bigger picture and “how things fit together”. Cellar assistants often do not realise that cellars must meet a multitude of legal requirements and that winemaking is not the only activity which takes place within a cellar.

Backsberg’s philosophy regarding transfer of knowledge entails that new information is preferably transmitted via more than one source. Therefore, participation in the Winetech study groups is considered important, so that the cellar team’s exposure to new knowledge is captured. The new knowledge acquired means that informed questions are asked, while transfer of knowledge continues to take place successfully.

The content of the Winetech study groups differ every year and according to Alicia this is unique, as the content includes subjects which is seldom considered by the cellar team. Regular attendance of the Winetech study groups has resulted in an increase and development of the Backsberg cellar assistants’ knowledge and their improved self-confidence is noticeable. She said that the Backsberg team is immensely proud that they are singled out to attend the study groups. Apparently, they feel proud and very “smart”, as they have access to new knowledge that no one else receives on the estate. Backsberg views the transfer of knowledge as an investment, but more importantly it is also a confirmation to employees that everyone is valued.


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