Knowledge Challenges-Aging Workforce

The discussions I had with some of the folks at the APQC conference shed some light on unique knowledge challenges that organizations are facing. Many organizations have to ensure that they have clear knowledge retention strategies given the fact that they are dealing with an aging workforce. Incidentally a recent Accenture survey report that has been published this month says

“one-quarter (26 percent) of respondents said that their organizations will let them retire without any transfer of knowledge. Just 20 percent said they anticipate an intensive, months-long process of knowledge transfer prior to their leaving, 28 percent said they believe the knowledge-transfer process will last one or two weeks, and 16 percent think they will simply have an informal discussion with others in the organization prior to retirement”

And most of these companies end up doing lengthy structured interviews of employees and videotaping them. This is a very reactive approach to knowldge transfer and may not work in all scenarios. Organizations that understand the complexity inherent in knowledge and the social nature of learning are investing heavily in succession plans and internship(mentoring). Videotapes of experts may augment this effort. The chain of thoughts that the expert uses to draw conclusions,the assumptions he makes are all too tacit. And trying to capture 20 years of experience in 2 hour tapes seems meaningless. Also there has to be a systematic effort to maintain high levels of employee satisfaction and motivation to retain employees.

The bottomline is :

1. Rely on time tested apprenticeship/mentoring techniques to transfer key competencies to retain/transfer organizational knowledge

2. Ensure that you retain those that have the knowledge after the transfer has happend. And ensure that knowledge sharing happens. To get a better idea of how employee satisfaction and motivation affects knowledge sharing see the causal models designed by Nick Bontis.

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