CXO

Baby boomers sticking around longer?

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!

That’s a load off of our collective minds, right? I can breathe much easier now

knowing that the impending brain-drain is no longer a reality—let 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 don’t 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 organization’s radar

screen? It’s probably right up there with pandemic flu planning, as in, “let’s

stick our heads in the sand and pretend the issue isn't there.” My friends,

both issues are real and require some planning. But let’s 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 transmit—we'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. I’m going to let you in on this secret: these tools are business

process mapping, the implementation of IT frameworks, systems re-engineering,

and audits.

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

heads.

What better way to start gathering knowledge than to do all of the above while the employees with the knowledge are still around?

Business process 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.

Systems 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? It’s okay to raise

your hand; no one is looking and I won’t 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 today’s 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.

Audits: Stop

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 that’s usually enough information for

them.

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 – don’t forget about

the pandemic flu!

Message was edited by: The Trivia Geek

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