Each new day brings grim news about more companies reducing staff to lower expenses in the face of lowered revenue projections. In many cases, these cuts go well beyond the fat into the organization’s muscle. How do these cuts affect the innovation capacity of the organization? This is a fundamental question for managers caught on the horns of a frightening dilemma. Budgets must be slashed, and personnel cost is one of the biggest segments of the budget pie. Innovation is the key to successfully navigating through these uncharted waters, but personnel cuts undermine the enterprises ability to deliver on its innovation objectives.
We see it happening all around us. Experienced workers who carry the highest cost burden are shed to stabilize the financial health of the company. But as these workers walk out the door, so does much of the intellectual capital of the enterprise. What can companies to mitigate the blow?
The generation transference and leverage of corporate knowledge assets has rapidly become a critical issue for companies. Retained workers must be able to tap into the knowledge of absent mentors if companies are to avoid reinventing the wheel and repeating the mistakes of the past. In the best of times this is a challenge for organizations. I was talking to a scientist from a consulting company who confided that a big part of his business was solving problems for client that they had already paid him to solve in the past. Why? Because as workers moved through their career cycles, new workers had a tendency to go through the same learning process as their predecessors. This process is now accelerated as external pressures push some workers out of the system more rapidly.
For many organizations, this self-induced demographic shift is having some very severe negative consequences. For others, while the loss of these workers is felt, the blow is not so catastrophic. In many of the situations I see, the difference is defined by the latter class of organization having adopted sustainable innovation practice and the supporting technology to enable it. These companies have captured their tribal wisdom and put it into motion within the fabric of the organization.
If you have not already done so, it is not too later. Knowledge harvesting of key resources can go a long way to creating a high-value repository of reusable assets. Using technology to aggregate and implement a just-in-time delivery strategy for this knowledge greatly enhances the capability of the innovation worker population.
If you haven’t already looked at your strategy for doing this, start now before it is too late.