Mentoring, Databases Fuel Future
Mentoring, Databases Fuel Future
As the baby boomer generation retires, procurement offices across the nation face yet another challenge–knowledge management. Entities that have relied on legacy systems and have not hired younger workers are most at risk, but forward-thinking organizations are using a variety of tools to retain and transfer knowledge. From succession-planning and talent-management software, to social network analysis (SNA) and information exchanges between older and younger workers, entities are introducing private-sector practices and finding ways to counteract the loss of experience.
In Illinois, where a centralized purchasing department spends close to $8 billion annually for goods and services, almost 13,000 out of nearly 70,000 state government workers have taken early retirement since 2003.
To prevent a further loss of knowledge as the baby boomers depart, the state’s Bureau of Strategic Sourcing and Procurement created a database to collect information from past purchases. With less than a $20,000 initial investment, the bureau built the prototype database as an add-on to its existing Lotus Notes e-mail system. The database captures the experience of buying goods and services for the lowest prices.
“Information is in the ‘vault’ regardless of whether employees are still with the state,” says Geoff Potter, Communications Officer, Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS). “Besides capturing critical data on any given contract, the information increases the state’s negotiating power.”
A statewide conversion to Microsoft Office includes access to a Web-based procurement system and database that provide a single standard for operations and knowledge management.
Besides implementing data collection tools, many government entities are creating or revisiting succession plans.
While succession planning is most visible at state and federal levels, plans are also in place on the local level, where retirement can have an even greater impact.
Cities and counties lacking the resources available on the state and federal levels are enlisting consultants to help ensure a smooth transition of operations. The City of Eagan, MN, contracted Madison, Wisconsin-based Virchow Krause & Co. LLP (VK) to take stock of where the institutional knowledge, memory, and expertise existed in the current organization.
City officials found succession planning to be much more than an exercise in filling position vacancies. Plans include identifying and retaining top performers. Accelerating promotions may also be necessary.
“A tremendous wealth of knowledge and customer management savvy rested with a lean, highly-skilled, experienced leadership team, suggesting that members could probably not be replaced by new managers on a one-to-one basis without sacrificing continuity and quality in city administration and operations,” says Christine Smith, Senior Manager, VK.
Critical elements identified for Eagan’s succession planning process included:
- Establishing reasonable expectations for the timing of recruitments to fill anticipated retirements in key positions
- Developing tools and opportunities for knowledge transfer
- Identifying the up-and-comers in the organization who were most suited to be groomed for future leadership positions
- Providing the skill and leadership training–including internal mentoring– needed to ensure the success of future leaders
- Strategizing for organizational change beyond personnel transitions, such as possible changes to organizational structure.
Procurement is especially affected by downsizing, the lure of private company benefits, and the lack of younger recruits.
With predictions ranging from one-third to one-half of today’s workforce eligible for retirement in the next five years, now is the time to start mentoring and training successors.