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Why Hoarding Knowledge Imperils Your Organization

October 2016

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Talent management is one of those topics that never seems to get old, whether it’s governments pondering the skills of their population or companies striving to ensure they have the competencies they require to thrive.

Indeed, a recent study from the Manpower Group found that nearly half of all American companies are struggling to fill the vacancies they have open at the moment.  It suggests that there must be a considerable risk that our companies either don’t have the skills they need now, or certainly won’t do in future.

A recent report from the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) suggests that many are content to bury their heads in the sand on this issue.  It revealed that few companies appear to have any plans in place to address any potential shortcomings in the skills available to them, before identifying four steps one can take to rectify matters.

Four Steps To Better Manage Your Talent Risks

1. Assessing the risks you face, including both internal and external skills audits

2. A prioritization of the key talent gaps you may face

3. Implement plans to mitigate these risks

4. Assess the effectiveness of those plans

It’s on the third step that I’d like to spend some time today, as it’s a topic that I’ve touched on a few times.  Strategies in this process tend to fall into one of three main camps.

1. Employee Development

Firstly, you can do a better job of training and developing the staff you have.  The Manpower study suggests that investment in this is growing considerably, with nearly 50% of employees now engaged in some form of on the job training.  That’s a growth of 36% in just a year.

Indeed, a recent post on the Harvard Business Review suggests that we should largely be recruiting based upon an ability to learn rather than any pre-existing qualifications.

Catering for this is something that few organizations do particularly well. A recent paper from the Learning & Performance Institute suggests that the key is to provide employees with both the tacit and explicit resources to enable them to learn in byte sized chunks as we work.

“Advances in technology mean that Learning & Development can look at enhancing the work being done on a day-to-day basis and make internal capability more accessible and on-demand. When this happens, Learning & Development, as a function, will be both more credible and more effective,” author David James told me.

2. Knowledge Retention

A 2nd key strategy you can deploy is to do much better at retaining the knowledge you already have.  Whether it’s natural movement in the job market or impending retirements, it’s likely that key personnel will come and go all the time.  Retaining their knowledge therefore helps the organization to become smarter, even as individuals within it come and go.

Of course, this isn’t always the case, and I’m sure we can all remember colleagues or even entire workplaces where knowledge was hoarded rather than shared.  A recent study published in the Academy of Management Journal highlighted the impact of such practices, both on individual careers but also the organization as a whole.

“Employees who intentionally hide more knowledge seem bound to receive such selfish behavior in return from their co-workers, which will ultimately hurt them and decrease their creativity,” the authors say.

In other words, it becomes dog eat dog, with everyone eventually losing out.  Suffice to say, creating (or changing) culture so that it is more open and sharing is far from easy, but it certainly pays off.

3. Open Innovation

I’m not sure Bill Joy could perceive the concept of open innovation back in 1990, but his famous saying that “no matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else,” has come to epitomize the movement.  By engaging with startups, academics and various other people in your ecosystem, it’s possible to tap into a much wider range of knowledge than exists within your own organization.

Recent figures suggest that over 80% of large organizations are or have engaged in some form of open innovation.

“Open innovation is adopted by firms from low-tech as well as high-tech sectors. For example, wholesale, trade and retail firms reported engaging in some form of open innovation,” the authors say. “This suggests that open innovation is not just a high-tech phenomenon driven by firms in the information and communication technology sector.”

Whilst this is undoubtedly great, the i4cp report suggests that there is still a long way to go before organizations have truly developed an adaptable and responsive talent pool, with precious few companies appearing to have a wider perspective on their talent needs to begin with.

On the plus side, it’s fair to say that these issues are not really new, so those organizations that do get it right can grasp a real competitive advantage.  Over to you.

 

This article was written by Adi Gaskell from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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