A Method for Assessing Knowledge Loss Risk with Departing Personnel

A Method for Assessing Knowledge Loss Risk with Departing Personnel

Murray E. Jennex (San Diego State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4679-7.ch015
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Abstract

Knowledge workers hold much of an organization’s knowledge. Unfortunately, these knowledge workers tend to be transient, and when they leave, they take the knowledge inside them. Organizations need to try to capture this knowledge but find it difficult as it is usually too late to capture this knowledge when a worker announces he/she is leaving. This chapter presents a process for assessing each worker for the risk of taking knowledge with them. The purpose of this process is to aid organizations in allocating resources to capturing the most valuable and most accessible of the knowledge potentially being lost in time for it to be captured and retained.
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Introduction

Knowledge workers are defined by Davenport (2005) as those who think for a living and whose main asset is knowledge. Reinhardt, Schmidt, Sloep and Drachsler (2011) differentiate knowledge work from other forms of work through the primary task of “non-routine” problem solving that requires a combination of convergent, divergent, and creative thinking. Knowledge based organizations utilize knowledge to produce the goods/services that generate their income. Knowledge workers are those workers in knowledge based organizations that hold, access, create, and/or apply knowledge to the generation of value/income. Knowledge workers, while a valuable resource, are highly transient (Yigitcanlar, Baum & Horton, 2007). Additionally, by 2010, more than 25% of the United States workforce reached retirement age, which would have resulted in a potential worker shortage of 10 million and a tremendous loss of organizational knowledge had not the world economy sunk into recession (Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics, 2008). Organizational knowledge loss is an unfortunate fact and one that will become a large problem for organizations as the economy improves. Organizations lose knowledge through the loss of knowledge holders (i.e., experts and knowledge workers), failure to capture critical knowledge, failure of knowledge repositories (this can be failure of electronic, paper, or human storage media), and just plain forgetting (either forgetting the actual knowledge or forgetting where captured knowledge is stored). Jennex (2006) and Jennex and Zyngier (2007) have explored some of these issues. It is the purpose of this chapter to explore how to assess the risk of losing knowledge by losing experts and/or knowledge workers. Applied research methodology is used to:

  • Define what risk is for knowledge loss;

  • Define the factors that determine the risk of knowledge risk;

  • Define processes for determining values for each of the knowledge loss risk factors;

  • Define knowledge loss risk management by defining processes for ranking knowledge loss risks and determining appropriate actions to mitigate knowledge loss risks.

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