Friday, May 27, 2011

New Zealand: Research on Employer Preparedness; Calls for Public Employment Changes

New Zealand's Victoria University's announcement of a PhD dissertation showing that many organizations are under prepared for the loss of valuable knowledge as the oldest members of the baby boomer generation near retirement has led to calls for government employers to introduce more flexible working conditions so older workers can be retained in the state sector workforce.

First, the research: Dr. Carmel Joe's research suggests that few organizations have systems for identifying older experts or retaining their expertise after they retire. As part of her work, Dr. Joe created a model that organizations can use to identify the knowledge held by older experts and integrate it in to their knowledge retention processes. According to Dr. Joe:
Some aspects of a job can be documented but not everything. When I asked people what they would do if an expert in their team disappeared tomorrow, most replied that they'd have all the materials that person had generated but not the added element of the tacit knowledge they hold in their head.

Experts become very attuned and intuitive about what to do and what not to do but it's knowledge that is hard to define or write down. They also have a lot of referential knowledge—they know where to go to find things out.
One response to the research has come from Public Service Association national secretary Brenda Pilott who wants measures introduced that would allow older members of the workforce to work part-time. According to a news story written by Tim Donoghue, Plilott said:
The idea of more flexible arrangements to retain older workers and their expertise is something the public service wrestles with ... there needs to be more flexibility in terms of number of hours worked by older workers.
Sources: Victoria University News Release (May 18, 2011); "Older workers 'need more flexible hours' " (May 21, 2011)

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