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.