ROCKY MOUNTAIN WATER MAY 2017 | 15 FEATURE In the water utility sector, it can be a challenge to pass down information. As subject matter experts transition into retirement, there is a brain drain in which much of that expertise and know-how will become absent. Much of this critical expertise is held by a few individuals and not documented for further reference. With knowledgeable people leaving the industry, it is vital to transfer knowledge to the next generation of workers to ensure utilities have the understanding and resources to maintain their organizations. Efficient handling of information and resources within an organization is known as knowledge management, and is a key topic of discussion in ensuring that information is shared and accessible to everyone throughout an organization. There are two strategies that are targeted to transfer this knowledge and bolster knowledge management in organiza-tions: the use of repositories and direct transfer to the coming generation. Repositories act as a documented collec-tion of this information that can be freely accessed, such as online forums, opera-tions and maintenance (O&M) manu-als, standard operating procedures, and other historical knowledge documen-tation. This strategy has the benefit of standardizing methods and operational strategies that have been used in the past to inform future decisions for the orga-nization. There is a great push for this content to be developed and shared, but this demands a concerted effort within an organization to ensure that the critical information is actually being maintained and made available for future reference. This can be achieved by setting goals for senior staff to deliver such content and making it part of their perfor- mance goals. The second strategy is the direct transfer to the incoming generation of workers. This can come in the form of trainings, apprenticeships, using repositories of information, and direct mentoring. Well-qualified technicians have a wealth of knowledge that can be shared when working in close relationship with a rising professional. Developing these mentoring relationships within organi-zations is a great opportunity to facilitate knowledge transfer. This mode of knowl-edge management is extremely effec-tive in building the next generation of subject-matter experts, but there is still a great need for documentation and stan-dardization of key operations to secure an organization’s future. It is important to understand the critical functions of any organization, to help identify areas where there is a need for knowledge management. Key areas to address include: • Knowing when key employees are going to retire; • Being proactive about supporting that area of the organization that may soon be facing knowledge gaps, and providing them resources ahead of time; • Developing formal plans for transferring knowledge; • Assigning rising professionals to work under subject matter experts and build professional development programs for hands-on knowledge transfer. The staff and expertise in our organizations is an asset that needs to be maintained, just as we try to maintain the machinery and facilities we work in. By equipping employees with the resources and tools to be successful in their roles, we are creating a safety net for our utilities, eliminating unnecessary problem solving, and saving time and money. Knowledge management has the goal to guarantee that there will always be someone in the organization who knows where to put the “x.” Alan Ridgeway, P.E., is Brown and Caldwell’s Utility Performance Consulting Leader, with more than 23 years of experience in utility consulting, operations, and program and project management. His expertise includes O&M and engineering engagements with both municipal and private agencies, including those incorporating public–private partnerships.
RMW - May 2017
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