Figure 2: ECM is the foundation of solid knowledge management
Source: Establishing a True Source of Product Content for Competitive Advantage,
AMR Research (Murphy (2003))
Retaining the knowledge to overcome "knowledge walkouts"
From the basis of an ECM architecture or framework, organizations can begin to successively learn and accumulate knowledge from its employees. The true intelligent enterprise is one with the capacity to learn from the collective experience of successive generations of workers and use its history to its advantage according to Gartner (2005). The most successful organizations are those that most effectively use the skills, expertise, and knowledge of their workers, whether incoming, outgoing, or somewhere in between.
With the urgency of an aging workforce facing companies around the world (the impending retirement of valuable knowledge workers), it's easy to lose a sense of balance. Stemming the brain drain, for many companies, means putting every ounce of effort into capturing what's in an employee's head before she walks out the door. HR organizations exert extraordinary effort here, urging departing employees to use their dwindling time to document their knowledge and cram it into a repository (Kimmerle, Wodzicki, Cress, 2008).
Knowledge Management for Many Organizations: Use it or Lose it
The fact that there are organizations whose knowledge management systems are best practices for their given industry, and have processes in place for capturing and retaining excellent components of their knowledge are still the fact that it must be used to be effective according to Gartner (2006). Based on "the last mile" of knowledge management so to speak being these processes of selectively applying the content to specific business strategies and challenges, the indexing, search, and retrieval of knowledge in these repositories becomes a completely separate issue.
Once in the repository, there's little guarantee that the valuable knowledge ever emerges again. In fact, it's not valuable at all without a thorough consideration for the way new workers will access it and put it to use. Getting workers to change how they do their jobs is also a critical aspect of capturing content, according to the Hard Side of Change Management (2005).
Certainly, search engines, portal frameworks, content management, collaboration platforms, expertise location, and e-learning systems have geared themselves to addressing these problems according to Columbus and Murphy (2002).. Business process management (BPM) is also playing an increasingly vital technology role, as embedding knowledge into codified processes is an effective way to ensure companies learn from experience.
Knowledge for the new workforce
What is very apparent from the research and findings for this paper is the fact that companies have got to think ahead. Better knowledge management strategies must account for and capitalize upon the skills and expertise of the incoming workforce, along with the tools they're already accustomed to and adept at using (Evans, 2007).
Many of the new workers entering a company interact with information in far different ways from the exiting old workers. The new workforce grew up on the web, using instant messaging as opposed to e-mail, thumbing shorthand text messages on cell phone keypads, and creating and offering their mySpace profiles and blogs to the world.
To the graying workers, this new wave of workers looks more like a generation of distraction. No matter what amount of effort one goes through to make new workers equal to the old, they will never be the same....
But different doesn't have to mean worse. In fact, in light of the dearth of available replacements in many industries, many companies are discovering it doesn't have to mean "worse."
Employees in the emerging workforce will have to be more productive on their own, and they'll have to collaborate and coordinate work more effectively with others inside and outside of the organization (Perrott, 2008). They'll also have to be better at conveying knowledge to your next generation of workers.
New technology for the new generation
If there is a single lesson learned by organizations instituting their own knowledge management strategies to alleviate the significant risk of losing intellectual property from "knowledge walkouts" it's the fact that the next wave of collaborative tools has already arrived according to McKinsey & Company (2005). The next generation of workers that will pick up the positions of the retiring baby boomers already are very adept at collaborative technologies including social computing, expertise location, wikis and blogs, and social tagging may soon be as vital to your business success as e-mail is today. At the same time, alternative technology will present risks. Any company's incoming workforce may be less inclined than ever to use the enterprise systems you've worked for so many years to implement and deploy. Instead the knowledge so assiduously captured today will need to find new meaning and structure in the context of the coming generation of knowledge workers. The challenge for the next generation of workers will be in applying linguistic modeling techniques to content and mining consumer-generated media for key insights, according to Columbus (2005).
Conclusions and Recommendations
There are two dominant forms of "knowledge walkout" occurring in companies globally today. The first is attributable to worker churn and the continual movement of employees from one company to another. The second and more significant dynamic is the coming demographic transition of baby boomers progressing into retirement. Their key lessons learned, their intelligence and insights, taken together form the intellectual property of the companies they work for. This accumulated knowledge needs a framework to be organized into, and that is the role of an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) in the context of knowledge management strategies. From the context of an ECM architecture the foundation is also set for providing the next generation of employees with the critical information they need to complete their jobs.
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