The retiring knowledge worker problem and the loss of critical knowledge

By William Seidman Are a lot of your company’s best people approaching retirement? The prospect of losing expertise at a high rate can be more than a little frightening. We get numerous inquiries about this. Not many organizations take this seriously enough to fund programs or change daily routine sufficiently to prepare for this. Why? I think because it’s seen as a future problem, and not big or bad enough to tackle now. The executives who make the funding and priority decisions don’t want to plan around it – after all, they’ll be retired themselves before it hits, and they don’t want to rock the boat. It’s not a sudden crisis, but rather a slow loss of capability – sometimes so slow as to be barely noticeable. An alternative way of framing this problem is to state it as a crisis in the protection of critical knowlege. This is what’s lost when great people retire, and what’s so important to preserve. David DeLong has said that “This is a huge problem for the nuclear industry, because it goes without saying that it can’t afford to make a single mistake.”]]>

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