TANDBERG, a global provider of telepresence, high-definition videoconferencing and mobile video, announced the results of a study on the retiring workforce and the role of knowledge management, “See: The Future of Government.” This study of 171 federal managers reveals that federal agencies face significant challenges as they prepare for the impending wave of retiring employees.
The research reveals current gaps in agencies’ knowledge management infrastructure and training processes, and the study provides recommendations for improvement. Pointedly, the majority — 61 percent of federal managers — revealed either that their agency does not have or they are unsure if their agency has a knowledge management policy.
“There is recognition of a need to be concerned about the knowledge gap and transfer of knowledge and information that exist in a retiring workforce of the federal government,” said Congressman Danny K. Davis, D-Ill. “The TANDBERG study highlights these problem areas — the inability to recognize the generation shift of intellectual capital leaving the workforce and the inability to install safeguards, by the use of modern technology, to maintain and increase the overall productivity of the federal government. As Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, it is my intention to promote and encourage a more diverse, competitive and productive workforce. It is important that we recruit, mold and retain the best and brightest workforce by making use of all the available and necessary tools to do so.”
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) reports that in the executive branch alone, approximately 60 percent of the 1.6 million white-collar employees and 90 percent of about 6,000 federal executives will be eligible for retirement over the next 10 years. Despite this approaching retirement wave, only 22 percent of respondents cite retirement as an issue of major importance to the federal government. This disconnect indicates that many agencies currently fail to place priority on the impending “brain drain” resulting from the departure of retiring federal employees.
Predictably, older federal employees and those with greater length of service in the government place higher priority on the retiring workforce issue, with 30 percent of federal managers older than 46 and 26 percent of federal managers with more than 11 years of service naming retirement as a key issue. All federal managers, however, share significant levels of concern about their agencies’ current knowledge management, training and development processes, with nearly 80 percent indicating they are somewhat or very concerned about knowledge management, training and development.
Out of the 39 percent of federal managers who note that their agencies have a knowledge management policy, only 26 percent report that the majority of employees (80 percent or more) are aware of the policies. These apparent deficiencies in federal knowledge management practices and communication have the potential to hamper upcoming workforce transitions.
Looking at the specific information areas addressed by knowledge management processes, 87 percent of respondents note that their agencies collect official operating processes and procedures, while just 37 percent collect informal information about how to do things most efficiently. Further, less than half of federal managers report that their agencies are capturing the majority of their operating processes in writing. As a result, federal agencies stand to operate at a less than an optimal level and lose critical lessons learned that could enable them to avoid past mistakes.
Considering the next generation of federal employees, 82 percent of respondents note that their agencies conduct new-hire training. However, respondents report significantly fewer continuous training activities, with just 48 percent reporting that their agencies offer issues-based education. These findings show a clear need for a focus on post-hire training, including education on best practices left by new employees’ predecessors.
Additionally, responses indicate that many agencies still focus primarily on in-classroom training, with 89 percent reporting the use of this modality. Despite high recognition of the effectiveness of multimedia tools, federal managers report lower use than confidence in all cases. For example, while 86 percent of respondents identify video recordings as a somewhat or very effective format to pass processes and information along to the next generation, only 20 percent of respondents report they leverage the technology for knowledge management. Less than half (45 percent) of agencies with videoconferencing note that they leverage the technology for distance learning, pointing to a missed opportunity to fully leverage the benefits of this resource to support knowledge management practices.
“The fact that the federal workforce will undergo a significant resource transition in the coming years is well established — this study highlights the requirement for agencies to proactively address this shift and capture critical tacit knowledge held by current employees,” said Joel Brunson, president, TANDBERG Federal. “Agencies looking toward the future of government should consider the implementation of multimedia tools, such as high-definition videoconferencing technology, to effectively capture and disperse essential operating procedures, lessons learned and best practices.”
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