Managing risk includes managing one of your most important assets ─ your workforce. With fear in some quarters that intellectual capital may be leaving the many industries faster than it can be replaced, here are some steps to reduce the impact of retirement and increase employee retention.
Is your organization ready to lose up to 25 percent of its intellectual capital in the next few years? Add this flight to an average job stay of three-to-four years, and businesses in
Here are some possible steps companies can take to manage looming intellectual losses.
Don’t underestimate the impact of generation gaps.
There are four generations of workers in today’s diverse work force. Intergenerational teams can bring divergent employees together where they can benefit from each others’ strengths, not just complain about weaknesses. Older workers are delaying retirement; younger workers who wanted their jobs may feel frustrated by the recent economic downturn, which delayed retirement for so many.
Analyze current work force strengths and talents to determine core competencies.
If only a few co-workers know an employee’s expertise, then that knowledge is useless to the organization as a whole. This knowledge becomes an information silo, a vertical information cluster not transmitted laterally to co-workers. Analyzing employees’ expertise and knowledge and categorizing it so that it becomes accessible by other employees is critical to improving and strengthening your work force. Without sufficient categorized intellectual capital, a company may not be robust enough to respond to opportunities as they arise.
Determine which employees are potential flight risks.
Talk openly with employees eligible for or considering retirement. They may have home/work difficulties or financial concerns that, if solved, can help you can retain them. Flexibility is the key. Employees may need more time off, greater leeway to work non-core hours or to work at home. If the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is voluntary in your company, consider allowing FMLA leave. Offer incentives to delay an employee’s departure.
Prepare to replace exiting information agents when those employees retire.
In smaller organizations, this process may be informal, but larger companies must develop a process to both recognize the intellectual loss and replace it. Companies must develop time frames and provide incentives so that newer information agents can become experts on specific topics before the need arises.
Hire retiring employees as consultants.
With the increasing cost of medical care for retirees, many welcome a supplement to their retirement income. Adding benefit package components that appeal to older workers, such as long-term care insurance or prorated health coverage for part-time work, may also help retain them.
Use technology to drive inter-company communications.
Intranets, videoconferencing, peer-to-peer technology, and podcasts are information portals that allow communication between distant workers in varying time zones. Encourage workers to develop virtual relationships to share ideas and solve problems using these tools.
Establish “practice communities” where individuals from various departments meet regularly to solve problems.
With today’s sophisticated technology, organizations need not rely solely on local talent. A company-wide initiative can be readily implemented by your organization’s information technology department. Practice communities build virtual relationships, which in turn help cement employees to the organization.
Organize and memorialize practice community results with wikis, a decade-old web application that allows many people to collaborate on a single document.
There are several sites dedicated to collaborative writing, including www.writeboard.com and www.writer.zoho.com. Visit www.wikipedia.org, the on-line encyclopedia written by collaboration, to view an example of collaborative writing at its finest.
Implement a mentoring program.
Some enlightened insurance organizations have implemented mentoring programs. Mentoring goes both ways. Older employees can mentor Millenials on workforce etiquette; younger workers can mentor older employees on technology or youth-oriented communication and consumer trends.
Pool knowledge across organizations.
Your Encore, founded by The Procter & Gamble Company and Eli Lilly and Company, is a society of retired research scientists and engineers who provide consulting services. Many industries, for example non-profits, are well suited to this approach. Models to implement this approach are already well accepted by many industries.
Build a culture that values expertise.
To prevent brain drain, an organization should develop an atmosphere that values aging workers and the knowledge they possess. Recognizing, but more importantly, publicly recognizing their overall contributions to the organization, may mean keeping employees just a few years longer.
Support membership in professional organizations.
‘Support’ means paying dues and supporting absences necessary for employees to both attend conferences and to hold committee positions. Your organization be afraid that allowing employees to network outside the company increases the employee’s flight risk. More enlightened managers realize that if employees feel valued for their expertise and encouraged in their professional development, they are generally more loyal to their employers.
Offer incentives for obtaining education. Offer better incentives to attend class rather than participate on-line.
And tell employees to leave their mobile devices “off.” Today’s rising starts and current managers multi-task. There is little benefit to paying for conference attendance if your employee is playing Scrabble, tweeting, or reading email.
Avoid the human resources “silo.”
Human resources departments are often “silos,” gatekeepers in the hiring process. They may have too much voice in which applicants are interviewed. Form inter-departmental hiring panels, teams that develop job descriptions, review applications and give input on hiring and other issues like employee retention.
Consider the Total Cost of Jerks (TCJ)
Verbal abuse, intimidation and bullying are widespread in the American work force. Some companies are taking notice. There is a growing trend to consider the TCJ impact on the work force, including several organizations on Fortune’s “100 Best Places to Work.” Older workers often will not put up with twits. That jerk in the cubicle next to a long-term employee may be the final nudge that pushes a valued older worker out the door. Most employees who have options tolerate jerks for just so long, and then they clean out their desk.
Don’t overlook diversity
Many employees are overlooked in the promotional process because they are different than the dominant makeup of an organization. Whites follow a different career path than their non-White counterparts, according to David A. Thomas, an expert on minority mentoring. Whites frequently get more attention from their managers and hence more opportunities. If we fail in our organizations to see beyond employees’ gender, skin color or religious beliefs, we may overlook our brightest talent.
Effective organizational change begins with a plan
Without a roadmap, the savviest traveler occasionally gets lost. To address brain drain, a company must develop a strong vision and a stronger plan. From top management down there must be a shared sense of urgency to this problem, because any critical initiative can go astray with the competition all organizations face in today’s global market. To solve the coming talent crunch, organizations must commit the resources to tackle this problem strategically, while there is still time.