One key to the successful and long-term survival of an organization involves knowledge capture and retention. The knowledge may include company secrets, lessons learned, and hard-earned best-practices that are lost, forgotten, or disorganized in the event of staff loss or early retirement. In the United States, the aging workforce poses a specific difficulty vis a vie utility workers. Many are quickly approaching retirement and operations staff are heavily impacted by this movement. Properly capturing and retaining employee’s tacit knowledge is a labor-intensive task as it is usually transferred through personal observation with demonstration, mentors, apprenticeships, or on-the-job training. Consequently, articulating the tacit knowledge of an aging workforce is a challenging and time-consuming effort without proper preparation, oversight, and application of established knowledge retention strategies. It is advantageous for an organization to have implemented a fully encompassing knowledge management (KM) system during its inception; an exit interview is not enough. The development should begin concurrently with the hiring process, thus capturing newfound knowledge early. An accessible database for critical company data aids in knowledge retention, but even proven methods cannot capture all knowledge efficiently. The system is often overburdened by an abundance of information, which results in indistinguishable lessons and outdated instructions. It is crucial to have a balanced and working system for a functioning organization, but any implementation is preferable to none. This paper examined the methods and strategies utilized to capture and retain critical information within a local utility. Current operations staff and management have provided data by completing a Knowledge Management Capability Assessment. It was determined that the utility has a low operational knowledge management capability. This process has increased the understanding of current KM strategies and provides the local utility actionable data to improve upon or develop such strategies.
Knowledge retention, utility workers, tacit knowledge, explicit knowledge, aging workforce
Date of this Version
Barnfather, E. G., McFall, K. A., & Lucietto, A. M. (2021, July). Study of Organizational Knowledge Retention Practices in the Utilities. In 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access.