In 2012, 7.7 million (18.5%) Americans age 65 & over were in the labor force. This is expected to grow to 72.1 million by 2030. Leading up to 2030 boomers and others will be retiring and leaving with them will be critical organization knowledge. Now, more than ever, organizations will need to pay much more attention to the methods of sharing critical knowledge.
Today more than ever knowledge sharing must be integrated into the development of people, and not only technical people. There are many different organization levels of knowledge sharing and they all have their own contributions towards the pace, functions, and development of the organization.
For the employees who have gained critical knowledge over the past 20 years or more, and will soon retire, there are some issues that must be overcome in order to start an effective knowledge sharing organization:
- Unwillingness to transfer knowledge – The culture, of many organizations, unknowingly developed to where obtaining unique knowledge became very valuable for individuals. Many of them were even rewarded for developing this unique knowledge. So when these employees get even closer to retirement they are more reluctant to pass it on.
- Lack of ability to transfer the knowledge – There will be employees who are very much willing to pass on their knowledge but they find it difficult. They have never been taught any coaching or teaching skills. Also, because they have done specific tasks and applied the same knowledge for many years they find it impossible to document.
- Limited resources – If the organization has never prioritized or integrated knowledge sharing with their continuous improvement culture the resources required to start such a program can seem daunting. But if it becomes part of the culture the knowledge sharing methods will become part of the day to day work, not requiring specific and additional resources.
We have found three programs that were very successful in knowledge transfer and soon became part of our continuous improvement culture:
Training Within Industry –Job Instruction (TWI-JI) – This training program is able to overcome the problems of unwillingness to transfer knowledge and lack of ability in transferring knowledge. This is because it enables employees with the ability to take ownership and the method of training is standardized through a four step process. One of the more important parts of the process is to carefully, and with a trained eye, observe the person with the knowledge while they are applying the unique knowledge. This trained observation process allows the capture of the “Key Points” and “Reasons” for to be captured in job breakdown documents. These job breakdowns can then be used as standard work to train people in the learning of this knowledge.
Succession Planning for Knowledge Sharing – The traditional succession plan requested by HR is once per year, receives very little planning, and is rarely used in people development. To really make this program vibrant include some of the needs of knowledge sharing into this plan. These requirements start with identifying mentors and practical teachers. The mentor does not need to be a knowledge expert; they are leaders who are able to ensure the knowledge learning process and momentum. The teachers can be internal or external people who can provide direct or related knowledge. HR’s role is to identify these mentors and teachers and to outline the timeline and milestones for acquiring critical knowledge. Finally, HR will document and communicate the benefits to both the individual and the organization.
Internal Social Networking – 52% of American adults already gain valuable information from social networking sites. So why not have your IT department create your own internal social networking site. Various groups can be created and curated by your employees. Like LinkedIn, these groups will bring out your experts and knowledge sharing will start to be not only domestic but also global if your organization works across countries. We found it not only brings out the known experts but also experts and best practices you never knew you had!
Almost all employees when ready to retire, no matter what level of the organization, will leave with some valuable knowledge. Without an ongoing and integrated knowledge sharing program, valuable organization knowledge will require re-developing or even lost completely. This can be prevented by developing knowledge sharing methods into your continuous improvement program.
Knowledge sharing is one of four components for a fast paced organization. Call Lean Teams USA +1 215-353-0696 to support your knowledge sharing implementation.
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