A new international standard on knowledge management aims to reduce the organisational performance risks associated with staff attrition.
Leading industry expert and knowledge consultant, Dr Kate Andrews says experienced staff hold knowledge that is difficult to write down and difficult to share.
“This includes solving problems others cannot, answering technical challenges, developing specifications and guidelines, and helping new staff get up to speed with organisation-specific information’, Dr Andrews said.
“The most important knowledge is not captured in an organisation’s policies, procedures and guidelines.
“And it is not held by others who can step up and fill the knowledge gap.”
When experts leave an organisation, they take critical information and skills with them. Impacts of knowledge loss include mistakes and rework, missed opportunities, and fractured relationships.
The standard, ISO/PRF 30401 Knowledge Management Systems - Requirements, which is set to be released this year, names knowledge risk through staff attrition as an important driver for knowledge management.
“The aim is to support organisations to develop a systematic approach to use knowledge effectively”, Dr Andrews said.
“The standard guides organisations to identify knowledge priorities; understand enablers and risks; and plan, support and evaluate their knowledge management efforts.”
While an Australian standard on knowledge management exists (AS5037 2005), Dr Andrews says ISO/PFR 30401 has a stronger focus on the practice and implementation of knowledge initiatives.
“It also provides a mechanism for Australian firms to harmonise knowledge management initiatives with international partners and collaborators.”
Dr Andrews specialises in engineering and project-based organisations and believes knowledge management will be a clear focus for many engineering organisations in the near future.
“As baby boomers begin to exit the workforce, the expert knowledge they have built up over the course of their careers is at risk of being lost”, Dr Andrews said.
“They have the can’t buy knowledge that must be grown in-house, for example what your organisation designs, your client demands, and production characteristics.
“If organisations do not prioritise knowledge management now, their business performance and capability may be compromised in the future.”
Dr Kate Andrews is facilitating a new course on managing knowledge risk by capturing and retaining baby boomer knowledge, specifically for engineering organisations. Find out more about Managing Engineering Knowledge Risk.