SUCCESSION PLANNING: ACHIEVING KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER
Some companies are farther ahead than others in acknowledging the urgency of preparation to replace soon-to-be retiring highly skilled workers - and actually doing something about it. In the Preoccupations column in the Sunday New York Times Business section (August 10, 2008), Mike Begley, manager of staffing and work-force planning at Midwest I.S.O. in St. Paul, wrote about how his company is planning for succession and knowledge transfer, particularly for 80 people to fill six critical positions. The company is the independent Transmission Systems Operator that oversees the power grid for 15 states and Manitoba, Canada for 27 power companies.
The first step to implement succession and knowledge transfer is to find people to fill the positions. An incentive system was developed for employees to make referrals, with a further financial incentive if their referral is hired.
The second crucial step was to develop a program for incumbents to transfer their knowledge to new employees or people new to their positions. A self-pace apprenticeship was developed by a collaborating team of managers from training, operations, engineering and tariff administration. It consists of a detailed curriculum ending in a cetification test. Every other week an associate sits next to an employee soon to retire to watch and learn all the complex skills. The program is open to to current employees as well as new ones, and they receive full salary and benefits while training.
The company has been pleasantly surprised by the results so far. Begley said they assumed that the associates would take 18 months to finish the program. Apparently highly motivated, most did the rigorous training in six months and passed the difficult certification exam! Score one for the work ethic and ambition of the younger generations.
"One of the hardest things for new people to understand," said Begley, "is that all the people in the control room have to work together to monitor the grid." Another example of the need for collaboration in today's highly skilled workplace.
The company is now evaluating whether to offer the retirees the option of part-time work. That issue is being explored by an "energetic intern."
Phyllis Weiss Haserot www.pdcounsel.com