Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Knowledge Retention

Over the last few months I've heard more and more questions about knowledge retention and tying knowledge management to succession planning.

Myron Olstein in the report "Succession Planning for A Vital Workforce In The Information Age" (Awwa Research Foundation, 2005) stated that for drinking water utilities:

•Half of your workers will not be with you in 10 years
•Most of the useful operating knowledge will go with them
EPRI report estimates that more than 80% of useful operating knowledge is tacit

These sentiments are being echoed throughout the water supply community, particularly by HR departments that are struggling to fill positions with qualified candidates.

This recognition has also spurred a lot of interest in purchasing systems to capture knowledge. The first question I'm often asked is what knowledge system should I purchase? While some knowledge systems are great, they should be last in your planning for knowledge capture. My recommendations are to:
  • Identify what information do you need to capture?
  • What can you do with existing processes and systems?
  • What simple things can you do first to capture knowledge (people and process)
  • What knowledge systems can support these activities? (technology)

Knowledge management planning should also not be done in a vacuum and should be integrated with business strategies and succession planning.

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