Wednesday, July 19, 2006

TVA: Case Study of Capturing Retirees' Knowledge

Fortune Magazine senior writer Anne Fisher writes about how one government agency--the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)--has found a better way to pass on critical know-how rather than letting workers take it out the door when they retire. According to Fisher, "TVA began several years ago to tackle a problem most big U.S. employers are only now beginning to ponder: an aging workforce that, within five years, will begin taking enormous amounts" of knowledge with them from the workplace.
Starting in 1999, the TVA broke down the daunting task of retaining knowledge into manageable parts, by asking line managers three questions:
  • What knowledge is likely to be lost when particular employees leave? ("What?")
  • What will be the business consequences of losing that knowledge? ("So what?")
  • And what can be done to prevent or minimize the damage? ("Now what?")
Among other things, TVA asked and convinced employees to let them know about their retirement plans and then gave employees scores based on how soon that would occur, while plant managers scored the employees on how critical their knowledge was. That way it was easy to see where there was a need to take immediate action and get people to pass on knowledge.

Source: "How to plug your company's brain drain" (July 19, 2006)

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