Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Retaining Knowledge

Organizations have three challenges in the subject matter:

1. Encouraging employees to continue with the organization.
2. If they decide to leave, ensuring that the knowledge doesn't leave with them.
3. If the knowledge still leaves, ensuring that it doesn't land up in the competitors' basket.

I will narrate the initiatives taken in the organizations known to me to meet each of these challenges.

Encouragement for a knowledge worker primarily comes from the job satisfaction. Both positive and not so positive means are adapted by organizations. The positive means are:

  • Employee opinion survey and actions based on the result.
  • Daily monitoring of employee's mental health by asking each employee to drop a token to indicate as to how he felt today, 'smiley' or 'frownie'?
  • Other conventional methods such as value based pay, challenging job assignments, supporting the employees family and social needs.

The negative means are policing the job seeker, making bar club agreements with potential destination companies etc. These means don't work to ensure results but only develops distrust.

Organizations which have been attempting to retain knowledge through job transfers and formal training sessions have started realizing the futility of such means and have embarked upon socialization. The popular techniques are; office hour games, informal meetings, OBLs (out-bound learning sessions) etc.

The third challenge that the organizations' knowledge doesn't land up in competitors' basket is normally managed through a legal agreement. But it has hardly any validity in the judicial court for knowledge is still considered to be a personal possession. One of the organization's CEO attempted a novel method. Any employee who leaves the organization if proves that he is not accepting an offer from the competitor will get 3 years pay, on the contrary if he does accept the offer from the competitor the employee has to pay three year pay to the his organization upfront. This two way agreement brought fairness and just to the whole process.

The introduction of paper publication as a part of the annual KRA is suggested recently. The idea emerges from the academics, wherein an expert gains credit for the number of papers he publishes or the number of knowledge he shares with others. Contrary to this in profession, an expert feels discredited when he shares his knowledge. The reason for this is fear of loss of identity. If adequate recognition can be given to the employee to preserve his identity, then the academic situation can be replicated in business environments. I have come across organizations which name the theory or process devised by the employee by his name and the same is patented. Obviously the employee is compensated for this appropriately. This patenting process also prevents the employee from selling the same process to outsiders after resignation / retirement. The whole process ensures reward, recognition and protection of knowledge.