We have heard from many of our clients and prospective clients that they have significant concerns about their current employee base. The issues that we have heard are:
- The workforce is aging and institutional knowledge will quickly be leaving the company
- The glut of senior, long time resources means there is nowhere for future leaders to move
- When the economy improves, the best and brightest will go elsewhere
Our research tells us that our clients are not unique AND like most other companies they are not quite sure what to do. The declining economy has caused employers to cut everything from salaries and bonuses to training and development budgets. As companies are trying to figure out how to survive during these tough times, employees are being pushed to the side. Employees may be frustrated and disheartened but feel like they have nowhere to go – which is probably true.
Smart companies are planning today for the recovery. As retirement accounts make a comeback, potential retirees will actually begin to retire. As they retire, years of knowledge will be following them out the door which is virtually impossible to replace. Working with those employees NOW on Knowledge Continuity can go a long way to be prepared for their departure. Here are a few things to think about:
- Create paired relationships between potential retirees and a few of your potential future leaders to begin to exchange long standing institutional knowledge
- Create incentive programs for potential retirees to share their knowledge
- Ensure knowledge management systems and practices are in place to capture institutional knowledge
- Create training programs for future leaders which include participation of potential retirees so that knowledge can be freely shared
- Ensure that succession plans are in place so that as resources leave their replacements can quickly step in
In addition, ensuring that your most critical resources are not getting lost in the shuffle is important. Those that feel like they have been ignored may be the first to leave as new opportunities present themselves outside the company. Let your “best and brightest” know that they are valued. If you can’t reward them in terms of compensation then offer them other incentives such as interesting assignments, more responsibility, access to senior leaders in the company, etc. so that they can see that someone is interested in their future. Also, spend some time doing some career planning to chart out the future to let them know what their next move is. These ideas can go a long way to making valued employees feel valued.
Those companies that will emerge more successful as the economy improves are those that are investing in the future – their employees. They recognize that when business improves they are going to need to rely heavily on their people. While things are slow, consider identifying skills gaps among your people and use focused training and on-the-job application to build / enhance skills. Employees will see this as investment in them and you will end up with a more highly skilled workforce – one that is ready to take on the new challenges that the recovery will bring.
As the job market opens up, many companies are going to see their talent rush out the door. Don’t be caught off guard. Ensure that your institutional knowledge is preserved and your “best and brightest” feel valued enough to stick around as the economy improves. These are simple steps but can go a long way to preserving your most precious resource – your emnployees.