The September 8th Nightly Business Report reported that there are 79 million baby boomers in the workforce and it is expected that 10,000 workers will retire/leave the workforce each day over the next two decades. They discussed actions corporations are taking to encourage workers to delay retirement, transition to retirement with part-time work and formal programs for older workers to train their replacements in order to mitigate this Boomer “Brain Drain”.
To mitigate the “brain drain” risk, smart corporations are undertaking initiatives that largely involve capturing the knowledge retiring workers acquired from their many years of experience. The result is essentially an intellectual property asset that most companies allow to leak out the door continually. To us compliance professionals, much of this knowledge capture will essentially result in well documented policy and procedures (P&P). We know how important P&P are. We also know what a tough slog it is to get management behind an initiative to develop and maintain P&P. Perhaps the coming “brain drain” will scare management into recognizing the need for solid P&P and also recognizing what a tremendous intellectual property asset will result from these efforts.
Technology will enable this initiative. Database systems that support collaboration and version control are readily available in many forms to support this effort. Such systems can ensure the P&P remains a living, evolving part of the organization. Smartphones and other devices enable capturing images and even video to supplant this information. Recall all the efforts, partly inspired by the building of the WWII Memorial in Washington, to capture the experiences of the WWII generation in filmed or recorded interviews before they passed on? Written documentation only gets part of the way there. Recordings and photos enhance understanding. Perhaps this exercise will unlock business ideas that were not pursued but whose time has come. Many today view electric cars as revolutionary but few understand that Thomas Edison and Henry Ford were working on an electric car in the early 1900s. Many of the first “horseless carriages” were electric. What great ideas may you uncover during efforts to mitigate the “brain drain”? How many flawed initiatives can we avoid in the future by documenting this knowledge? I’ve worked in several companies where new management teams announced exciting “new” initiatives and the veterans just rolled their eyes and said “here we go again”. They had seen such efforts tried and failed in the past and they knew the reasons for failure, reasons that hadn’t changed with the new management team. Avoiding costly mistakes and seizing identified opportunities may be two windfalls of these “brain drain” mitigation efforts.
Technology can put this intellectual property at the fingertips of those that can leverage it and, importantly, technology can make the information accessible while protecting the information from theft or corruption. Systems that use browsers to display information to employees on phones and tablets as well as PC and other devices can also prevent download and printing of this information. Preventing theft of this intellectual property will become as important as capturing the information before the retirees (and other terminations) walk out the door. Technology can eliminate the constraint of “place”. This is where integrating recording and video has the real payback. The technology can enable worker apprentices and/or workers in other geographic locations to use this information to avoid gaps that may occur when workers retire. Technology supports job-sharing or remote working for those older workers that desire to transition into retirement rather than to simple stop working. Allowing these workers to contribute in some capacity will mitigate the on-set of the “brain drain”. Technology can allow configuration of work for those transitioning to be more training, oversight and review based, and to be more flexible and enjoyable, eliminating the “daily grind” that made them look forward to retiring.
The demographics are alarming. Hopefully alarming enough that leaders come our way to help mitigate the risk that significant portions of the collective organizational intelligence walks out the door in the next decade. We need to seize this opportunity to fix what we have always known to be a gaping hole in internal controls; the lack of truly integrated, practiced and demonstrated P&P. Consider if the controls you currently have mapped to Principle 12 are truly robust or merely “window dressing”. Now is the time to creatively use technology to enable a “knowledge system” that is unrecognizable as P&P, but is P&P at its core. Seize this opportunity to leverage compliance.
About the Author
Glenn Murphy, the co-founder of BestGRC and founder of GRC Management Consulting, primarily focuses on empowering entities to leverage their compliance activities through the BestGRC “cloud” software, his consulting work, publications and the “Leverage Compliance” blog. Find Glenn’s full profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/glenntmurphy/ , follow him @GlennMurphyGRC and subscribe to the Leverage Compliance blog at http://www.bestgrc.com/blog/