I read a blurb in my local paper this weekend that stated
that 70 percent of all baby boomers plan to work past retirement age. Whoa!
Thats a load off of our collective minds, right? I can breathe much easier now
knowing that the impending brain-drain is no longer a realitylet those geezers
work until they’re 100!
Now that I can take my tongue out of my cheek, let’s look at
the reality of the situation: Planning to work past the age of 65 and having the
ability to do so are two entirely different things. Even with the incredible
advances in medicine that we have been seeing over the years, most men, on the
average, pass to the great beyond at or about age 76 and women at 82. Now
before you get too excited and say, There you go, 11 more years of
productivity, let me remind you that the years between 65 and 76 are years of
physical and mental decline and while the mind might be willing, the body may
refuse to cooperate.
So dont bank on having all these senior people around
forever in your organization, and start some real knowledge retention management
before a crisis does occur. Is this issue not even on your organizations radar
screen? Its probably right up there with pandemic flu planning, as in, lets
stick our heads in the sand and pretend the issue isn’t there. My friends,
both issues are real and require some planning. But lets talk about knowledge
retention now, and some of the things we can be doing about it.
First, there are different kinds of knowledge to be
concerned about losing. Some organizational knowledge is easily quantifiable and
can be documented; some knowledge is harder to capture and transmitwe’ll call
it “institutional knowledge.” The area where quantifiable and
institutional knowledge meet is, perhaps, the most valuable kind of knowledge.
For the sake of this discussion, let’s call it “wisdom.”
The most progressive organizations are putting together mentoring
plans, redefining works hours and positions to allow people more job
flexibility, are conducting oral history projects, and more. These projects are
often driven by human resources. But what about IT? What can we do to sustain
the knowledge built up in our departments?
We have what I consider to be some of the best tools for
knowledge retention management at our fingertips. And the best part is it’s in
disguise. Im going to let you in on this secret: these tools are business
process mapping, the implementation of IT frameworks, systems re-engineering,
Floored? Of course not. You knew it all along. One of the
main reasons that the retirement of the baby boom generation is an issue is
that on the whole, most organizations are
lousy documenters! Now those of you dealing with Sarbanes-Oxley are
probably getting much better at it ;-)but in general, we have a lot of
seasoned employees walking around with a great deal of knowledge in their
What better way to start gathering knowledge than to do all
of the above while the employees with the knowledge are still around?
mapping: Many organizations do not have a living document that captures
what they do and why they do it.
IT frameworks: Introducing
ITIL or COBIT as a way to formalize our business practices lends them
legitimacy, as well as makes sure that what we are doing is up to snuff.
re-engineering: How many of you are sitting on legacy applications that are
dependent on one or only a handful of individuals to keep them going? If they
all walked tomorrow, would you have to resign with them? Its okay to raise
your hand; no one is looking and I wont tell. The fact of the matter is that
we have far too many of these applications/systems, and the best way to spread
the knowledge is to rebuild them using todays modern tools and techniques. This
not only inspires and refreshes your now tired and bored legacy staff, but also
excites the newer staff members who will learn from participating in the
re-crafting of important systems/applications.
cringing like that! The auditor is your F R I E N D. Because they are usually
considered to be objective, people listen to them. Even if you have been saying
the same thing to your boss for years, he may pay more attention to a
recommendation in the form of an audit finding. This can help you kick-start a
project that you’ve been lobbying for a long time. Once an auditor brings up a
problem, suddenly people want to fix it, and that is often the start of the
money flow. Additionally, if asked why something needs to be done, you can say,
The auditors told us to do it, and thats usually enough information for
In summary, knowledge retention management is important for
all organizations as the baby boomers begin to near retirement. There are many
ways to retain their wisdom and knowledge, and fortunately, many of those tools
are already in your tool box.
In many ways, you can spin this like Y2K. We know the
general timeframe when the last of the baby boomers will most likely be leaving
the organization, so make your case and plan for it, just like you did for the
end of the world as we knew it. Oh, and while you’re at it dont forget about
the pandemic flu!
Message was edited by: The Trivia Geek