Companies Need Knowledge Transfer Plans

May 10, 2005( half (45%) of organizations do not have a formal process in place in which those retiring employees pass on their workforce knowledge and experience onto newer employees, according to a new survey.

While most respondents to the survey, which polled full-time US workers between ages 40 and 50, said there would be some sort of knowledge transfer, the time spent on such endeavors varied. One-fifth anticipated that there would be an intensive, months-long process of knowledge transfer prior to their leaving and 28% said they anticipated spending one or two weeks on the process. However, sixteen percent said their knowledge “transfer” would take place during an informal discussion with others in the organization, and just over one-quarter (26%) of respondents said that they will retire without any time spent transferring knowledge to younger workers, according to the survey released by Accenture, a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company..

“If they don’t act soon, organizations will face a major exodus of institutional knowledge, as their most experienced employees leave the workforce,” said Kathy Battistoni, a partner in Accenture’s Human Performance practice, in a press release. “With more than 25 percent of the current working US population reaching retirement by 2010, companies must undertake workforce development and training initiatives to capture knowledge and minimize its loss.”

Not only are most companies foregoing a formal knowledge transfer process, many do not take advantage of hiring retired employees as contractors to help teach their replacements. Accenture reports that only 34% of respondents reported that their employers use this tactic. Additionally, not only are companies not training the younger workers, but 41% of the workers polled for the survey said their employers are doing either a fair or poor job of providing employees with the training they will need to meet the challenges they will face prior to retirement.

Employees in the age group polled seem committed to their employers: 70% plan to retire from their current employer, and half (49%) plan to retire from their current position. Additionally, these employees appear to be willing to assist their employers; a large majority (88%) are willing to acquire new skills, nearly half (46%) said they are willing to relocate for their employers, and more than one-third (39%) are willing to work longer hours.

Most of those polled (58%) have not changed their planned retirement date within the past five years. Over half (53%) plan to retire before age 65, while 29% plan to do so between 65 and 69, and 17% are looking out past age 70. This may afford employers more time to train newer employees, and might also explain why so many employees are unsure about that transition. After all, survey respondents in their early 40s still have over 20 years before they will be retiring.

Of those who have changed their retirement date, nearly three-quarters (74%) plan to retire later than expected. Although most (55%) say the reason is that they are not as financially prepared as they would like to be, one-fifth plan to delay retirement because they enjoy their job. More than two-thirds (68%) are somewhat or very concerned about the ability of their pensions and government-sponsored programs to provide comfortable support after retirement.

The survey was part of an ICR/International Communications Research omnibus survey that polled 504 full-time US workers between the ages of 40 and 50 by telephone in March 2005.