Retirees and the organizational knowledge gap

With baby boomers retiring from the workforce in record numbers, businesses around the globe are contending with an increasingly widening gap in knowledge and leadership. In a research study conducted for the book “Critical Knowledge Transfer,” chronicled by the Harvard Business Review, authors Dorothy Leonard, Walter Swap, and Gavin Barton interviewed hundreds of departing executives to better understand what organizations lose when experts retire. Significant losses were found to fall into four distinct categories: relationships, reputation, rework, and regeneration.

Relationships

Built up over the years, relationships allow a senior person to call up other smart people to get the answers they need. When that person leaves, the contextual knowledge they’ve accumulated about the contacts they’ve developed and left behind is lost.

Reputation

Corporate reputations can take a hit when a senior person leaves the business and takes their credibility with them.

Rework

Incoming staff must spend time bringing themselves up to speed, familiarizing themselves with processes, and figuring out the organizational interactions that impact productivity.

Regeneration

When years of experience and know-how leaves the building, innovation is impacted, as is the organization’s ability to quickly and efficiently get products and services out the door.


1 Source: Panopto

2 Source: Deloitte Insights

3 Source: CFO

"Experts with a large experience base have a system perspective. They can look at something and say, 'That's going to affect X, Y, and Z down the road.' They have a sense of what interacts with what. That comes with experience, but some of it can be passed on."1
- Dorothy Leonard, author of “Critical Knowledge Transfer”

 

Source: Chicago Tribune

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