National Knowledge Management Research meeting "Made in Holland" (5)
How do you retain critical knowledge in an organization (Thales) with many retiring employees? How do you combine strict need to know policy in practice with knowledge sharing? How can the internal training department and the group that trains customers learn from each other? How do you spread the knowledge retaining effort over the different business units?
50% of employees at Thales are between 46-50 years old. And these people usually are life-long employees. Furthermore, the products (radar systems) Thales sells require 20-30 year maintenance and support.
How to retain knowledge due to reorganization, aging, shorter careers, and outsourcing? They used techniques as interviews, story telling and knowledge mapping to analyze the situation at Thales.
They found that knowledge retaining is really expensive. So, retain only company critical knowledge. ‘Critical’ was defined as being scarce, complex, company specific, with sufficient revenues, number of potential customers. This results in a much shorter list of old systems (products) for which knowledge should be retained.
They built a tool to show what would happen if something is e.g. outsourced. This gave them insight in which people have crucial knowledge, which employees to keep (because they have critical knowledge), and what knowledge they would loose after outsourcing.This process was complicated because Thales (as all military-related organizations) has a very strict security policy which makes knowledge sharing and retaining very difficult.