Demographic Time Bomb / Knowledge

Just back from a meeting where I faced for the first time the notion of “demographic time bomb” in relation to knowledge.

We are living in an era of vast social change and this notion should be taken into consideration in the preparation of any long-term project: political, economical and social. This concept involves several factors: the fact that population is ageing, unemployment, low birth-rate etc.

But have you ever thought about this concept in relation with knowledge? I started working in my twenties and I will probably retire in my seventies. That means that I have accumulated knowledge and expertise for 50 years. If I suddenly retire what will happen with my knowledge? Is anyone going to store it and re-use it, or it will simply die with me.

Let’s think about the health care sector: imagine if a consultant retires after a 40 years service without leaving notes or documents. Can you see the big damage that the organisation is going to face? That means that a big bulk of knowledge and expertise will be lost forever, and that the new generation will take years to try re-build it.

CIPD stated: the UK face serious skills shortages by 2035 unless employers change their approach to workforce planning.It said that something needs to be done to ensure that the hole left by retiring workers can be adequately filled.

knowledge-sharingSo, as information specialist how can I prevent this? As a librarian how am I supposed to preserve and store information/expertise and knowledge? I think that the real challenge here is starting a new culture where people actually share and store information. Rather than imposed this attitude should be vocational. We  desperately need a  policy and a place where to share, collect and archive knowledge, otherwise that might be lost due forever.

This is why nowadays terms like “knowledge retention”, “knowledge management (KM)” and “community of practice (CoP)” are so recurrent in the information sector.

This is a big mind-shift that requires a clear vision, including structure and process, organizational culture, and information technology. Let’s get ready.


Happy working

What does make you happy in your working place? I was reading Daniel Fujiwara’s essay (2015) about happiness related to well-being and quality of life and I found particularly interesting the fact that government policymakers are trying to measure its level.

Does your University’s management team or manager investigate/review the level of employee happiness?

Let’s start from the point that happiness makes people more productive. However it’s quite difficult to define what happiness is first because it’s a subjective feeling and secondly as human beings we experience a momentary happiness or a long-term one.

If I had to prepare a survey in order to assess the level of happiness I would explore the following key points:

  • Motivation contributes to improve the performance of organisations. Motivated employees are more likely to promote their organisations as a positive place to work, “thus attracting more dynamic and high calibre staff” (Baldwin et al.,2014). As a driving force it increases the employee’s sense of self-efficacy and creates “sustainable and enduring change through people, because it’s people who deliver results, not programs or emotions” (Pryce-Jones & Lindsay,2014).
  • Life work balance.  As time, energy and money are limited resources we are asked to rationalise them in a balanced dance. Koubova and Buchko (2013) explored the nature of this balance. Are balance work and family roles two goals contradictory or complementary? “Managers with well‐developed emotional intelligence (EI) will be better able to understand employees’ family problems, tolerate personal needs and find solutions to meet these needs in order to reestablish employees’ balance and job performance” (Koubova and Buchko, 2013).
  • Understanding as acquisition of knowledge, skills and competences.
  • Healthy working environments

Working it’s an important part of our life (we need money!) but how we measure the actula level of happiness? Do we base it on data such as income? Debate still open.


Baldwin, C., Jose, A. G., Kumar, V., & Luis Rocha-Lona. (2014). Personal development review (PDR) process and engineering staff motivation. Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, 25(6), 827-847. doi:10.1108/JMTM-01-2013-0001

Fujiwara, D. (2015). Happy economics. in Lauson, C. History is now: 7 artists take on Britain, exhibition catalogue, London: Hayward Gallery.

Koubova, V., & Buchko, A. A. (2013). Life‐work balance: emotional intelligence as a crucial component of achieving both personal life and work performance. Management Research Review, 36(7), 700-719. doi:10.1108/MRR-05-2012-0115

Pryce-Jones, J. & Lindsay, J. (2014). What happiness at work is and how to use it. Industrial and Commercial Training, 46(3), 130-134. doi:10.1108/ICT-10-2013-0072

An unusual meeting: the outcomes

In the previous post I explained how I structured a meeting about how to improve our team meetings. This time I focus on the unexpected outcomes that the ‘Stop, start and continue’ exercise highlighted.

Ivi0377 Ivi0376

Standing next to the flipchart I facilitate the discussion around interesting issues that the exercise raised. I decided to tackle first all the red areas and then move to the orange and green one.

On our flipchart there was a quite evident red area that covered one of the most frequent issue connected with meetings: duration. Most felt the meetings were currently too long and it was agreed to aim for an hour, unless critical items need to be discussed.

Another red area was concentrated around the reason for the meetings. Most asked for a clearer purpose and we agreed to use the meeting to discuss specific issues and receive information about topics discussed at the LSS Senior Management Team meeting. All felt that discussion time was an important part of a meeting and should be encouraged more.

The area of the agenda items was populated by a mixture of colours. We decided to save time on the updates from staff members and to circulate them ahead of the meeting while spending more time in the meeting for questions. Standing agenda items will be:

  • Chair’s communication (to include SMT updates)
  • Matters arising from previous meeting
  • Questions on updates from individual team members (circulated before the meeting)
  • Any other business

Moving to the orange area we agreed that current monthly frequency was felt to be right as well as the fact that actions should be assigned and followed up.

We recognised the importance of spending more time on the preparation of the meeting, for instance we will circulate suggested agenda items 2 weeks ahead for discussion. The chairperson will make sure that communications and documents are delivered and prepared consistently.

In the green area colleagues suggested to invite external guests and rotate the chairperson.

Overall I felt satisfied by the outcomes and the opportunity to share openly concerns and ideas. I am sure that our team is now stronger and more united than before. This was one of those rare opportunities to truly make a difference and we made it!