Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Fight the Brain Drain
Who's the best person to prevent knowledge loss in your organization? You are! Here's how


FEBRUARY 01, 2003 -- Is there any doubt that 2002 was a bad year to be an employee? With layoffs happening at a frightening pace, many folks dreaded showing up for work in the morning, fearful that there was a pink slip waiting for them. According to Challenger, Gray and Christmas, a Chicago-based employment research firm, about 3.3 million people lost their jobs last year. That is, then, 275,000 job cuts per month.

It's almost as bad to be an organizational survivor. Why? Because it means that you're now responsible for more work. In fact, there's a term gaining wide use to describe the additional responsibility remaining employees take on from those who have left: ghost work.

"Ghost work is very demoralizing, because people are expected to do more -- without a pay raise or the knowledge to handle the additional tasks," says Hamilton Beazley, chairman of Strategic Leadership Group, an Arlington, VA-based consulting firm.

Even more disturbing is this: In the coming years, after the economy inevitably rebounds and layoffs subside, the rate at which people leave their organizations -- and take their knowledge and experience with them -- is going to increase. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that 19 percent of baby boomers holding executive, administrative, and managerial positions are expected to retire in just the next five years, and the number of boomers who become eligible for retirement will remain steady -- at 12,480 per day -- from 2010 until the mid-2020s. And believe it or not, the public sector has a more immediate crisis: By 2005, more than half of the 1.8 million federal government employees will be eligible for retirement, including 71 percent of those within the senior executive ranks.

For both corporations and associations, these figures could mean disaster. There will be an exodus of knowledge and experience on a scale never before seen, resulting in a loss of productivity that could easily cripple the ability to compete. There are, however, some forward-thinking organizations that have implemented programs to promote continuous knowledge transfer between co-workers (a process Beazley calls "continuity management") in order to maintain productivity, regardless of the rate of employee turnover. Among the companies with such programs are General Electric, Siemens, Tennessee Valley Authority, and the World Bank.

And for meeting planners -- who, in essence, are specialists in transferring knowledge among people both internally and externally -- this is a perfect opportunity to become indispensible by helping to nurture continuity management programs within their organizations. The hook: Face-to-face meetings are a crucial component to any such initiative.

"In the coming years, continuity management will become a prominent management function, as important as any that we see today," says Beazley. What's more, "This task requires planners to create a new definition of their role," adds Deborah Amidon, founder and CEO of consulting firm Entovation International, in Wilmington, MA, and author of the new book The Innovation Superhighway (Butterworth Heinemann, 2002). "If planners can redefine their role in terms of the huge flow of knowledge that they help catalyze, they are instantly more valuable in the eyes of management."

So, what do you need to know about continuity management in order to promote such a program -- and yourself -- within your organization? Read on to find out.

Getting Started

Before you say to yourself, "A project like this is simply too big for me to handle," define the scope of your task with one simple question: Which department do you plan the most meetings for? Aside from your own meeting planning department (if there is one), this department is probably the area you know most about in your organization. As a result, you can help initiate a continuity management program within that department -- presumably with the blessing and assistance of human resources personnel. This places the project on a scale you can manage.

With your group defined and human resources in your corner, you should begin by taking these two steps:

Identify the valuable knowledge that the department's members possess.

Determine exactly where the knowledge they possess is.

The former is more closely related to a meeting planner's job than the latter, but knowing where people store their information is as important as determining what people know. Boston-based consulting firm Delphi Group estimates that 70 percent of organizational knowledge is in the minds of employees (known as "tacit" knowledge) while just 30 percent is in externalized forms (known as "explicit" knowledge).

Tacit knowledge includes:

People's information networks -- "the people they consult with regarding specific aspects of the business," says Beazley.

Knowledge of the corporate culture, and according to Beazley, "how people get their jobs done within that culture."

Unique experiences they've had and innovations they have made. "No matter how bright an employee is, if he doesn't have past experiences to refer to and build on, he will be at a disadvantage," says Beazley. "Your people need to know the victories and defeats of their predecessors in order to serve them in their future decisions and actions."

Explicit knowledge includes:

Audio- and videotape
Any other recorded form of information

Full Story

All Rights Reserved; Copyright 2003 Story by Robert Carey, Title: Fight the brain drain, Source: Http://www.successmtgs.com, Magazine issue Successful Meetings magazine February 2003. Contact Executive Editor Rob Carey at rcarey@successmtgs.com


Post a Comment

<< Home