When Employees Exit an Organization, Critical Knowledge Can Often Leave the Building with them
This informational loss can be especially significant when senior team members, who carry years of expertise and industry specific insights, are the ones leaving. Mitigating this disruption and retaining best practices as employees leave is not a new issue. However, organizations that have been slow to prepare for the transition of their aging workforce may soon find themselves overwhelmed with the task as a generation of workers prepares to retire.
In The Financial Times article “Keeping the know-how of a retiring generation” author Andrew Baxter shares that, “Over the next few years, the oldest of the 76m to 78m US baby-boomers will reach retirement age.” According to the statistics shared by Accounting Age, “Nearly 45 million Boomers are working in the U.S., representing about 29 percent of the labor force as of 2015.” In short, a significant portion of the workforce will soon be heading out the door, if they aren’t already.
The Utilities Industry is One Sector that is Facing a Potentially Enormous Knowledge Loss
A workforce survey conducted by the American Public Power Association (APPA) reported that within the next five years, 20% of utility company employees will be eligible for retirement. Despite this insight, predicting when an industry will be hit by a large number of retirees isn’t as easy as it once was. There was a time when pensions were managed almost exclusively by an employer – making it easier to predict when and how many employees would be retiring. However, today most American workers rely on personal contribution plans, like 401(k)s, making it more difficult for employers to have reliable data around retirement dates.
Historically, organizations have had transition plans in place so that the senior workforce can train the next generation. This provides an opportunity to share institutional knowledge, as well as the intangible know-how that comes with years of experience. Given the large number of retirees exiting at the same time, this may prove unrealistic. Additionally, industries who take this traditional approach are still leaving themselves vulnerable to knowledge loss from employee turnover.
Only Through Automation can Organizations Relieve the Pressures from losing Senior Team Members
In Emerging Technology: The Solution to Today’s Aging Workforce, John Fryer states that, “Companies that put automated systems for tasks like monitoring, data collection and analysis into place will find that new employees are up to speed in a matter of weeks or months, instead of years.”
Automating tasks not only brings efficiency, but freedom. “Activities like predictive maintenance of industrial plants can now be done with wireless monitoring instruments that can actually cut time and cost by 50 percent.” With automation, employees are able to focus on critical job functions, including transitioning the intangible knowledge of their position to their successors.