May 12, 2005

Aging workforce puts organizational knowledge at risk Many U.S. companies are failing to capture critical knowledge from retiring employees and transfer it to new ones, says a new study from Accenture. The company surveyed 500 workers between 40 and 50 years old, finding that almost half (45 percent) of respondents' organizations don't have a formal process or tools to capture their workplace knowledge. One quarter (26 percent) of respondents said their organizations will allow them to retire without transferring any knowledge. Only 20 percent said they would have an intensive, months-long process of knowledge transfer before they left. Twenty-eight percent said the process would take one or two weeks, and 16 percent said they'd just have an informal discussion with others in the company before retiring. Says Kathy Battistoni, a partner in Accenture's Human Performance practice, "With more than 25 percent of the current working U.S. population reaching retirement by 2010, companies must undertake workforce development and training initiatives to capture knowledge and minimize its loss. Additionally, they must support these initiatives with technology, which can help capture critical information and distribute it directly to employees' desktops." She says companies must take three important steps to effectively transfer knowledge from retiring employees. 1. "Understand the extent of the problem, including the skills at risk, and their organization's ability to tackle it." 2. "Develop a strategy to capture and transfer core skills from retiring employees and to identify, attract and retain new workers with critical skills." 3. "Manage and measure the progress of the entire effort." She concludes, "The bottom line is that leaders in this arena know that capturing critical workforce knowledge and skills can't be left to chance."

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