Saturday, January 15, 2005

Fear of the Brain Drain

One of my favorite magazines to read is CIO (Chief Information Officer). I am not a CIO, nor am I a techie of any quality but CIO always has a few interesting articles. They reach out to technical people (CIO's in particular) and gives them both business and leadership articles in order to round out their capabilities from the core of technology. It is these articles that I really enjoy. I will admit from time to time there are technology views that hold some interest as well. If you are a manager you might have a look at where they have blogs running well as articles and subscription information. For many I believe that the subscription is FREE if you fill out their information.

What brings me to all of this is my copy of "CIO Insider" which is CIO's weekly eNewsletter which I also read. Most of the time I agree with their management and leadership guidance but this time their Knowlege Management editor, Megan Stantosis missed unless their only readers are government and/or legacy companies and they are not.

Ms. Stantosis' article titled, "Don't Put Your Company in a Purple Haze, Let your retiring Baby Boomers go, but not their knowledge." She bases her comments on a book by David DeLong, Lost Knowledge: Confronting the Threat of an Aging Workforce. I have not read the book, but the article asserts that companies are facing a real and substantial problem with baby boomers retiring and taking their knowledge with them.

I responded to the article with the following:

In some parts of business and in some parts of the world the economy might still be bad, but that is being reduced in the number of verticals still slow and the slow economic geographies are shrinking. So the poor economy tone puts a question to the views outlined.

Second, there is no mention of the brain drain that occurred over the last 15 years with early retirements and then mass layoffs as companies drove themselves lean. The knowledge lost in those events was substantial and in very few cases were there any attempts to retain knowledge. Cuts were made first and the attempts to recover were made later by those who were left behind, often without training to figure it out. We are all the recipients of the poor training and service each day as we try to buy, sell or trade with other companies.

Today, as the economy is quickly recovering much of the knowledge lost has been recreated and the demand for people is growing into a universe of applicants that are less prepared and less qualified than we would all like.

The challenge today is to get the training needed to the new hires and lifting them to the level that is needed to serve the customer.

The baby-boom drain is going to be less of an event than I believe it is made here. Thousands upon thousands of baby-boomers took early retirements and bought Mailbox stores which much to their delight became UPS.

The knowledge risk in the next five years is going to be the ability to impart business knowledge to the people still working who are less well trained than needed and that knowledge to new people who are being added and will be added as growth continues in the near term.

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