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Retiree knowledge retention

1 March 2017
Dr. Moria Levy
senior man playing chess

Retiree expert knowledge retention is an important need in many organizations. It deals with retaining the most critical knowledge enabling organizations to minimize potential damage driven by their retirement.

Knowledge retention is not a straight forward task, as the knowledge the expert holds is endless.

Hereby is a 4-staged methodology, supporting the process:

Stage 0- selecting experts:

Deciding which experts should be included in such a plan of knowledge retention. Theoretically, this process can be preformed for any quitting/retiring worker yet due to limited resources it is preferable to focus on workers who have developed organizational expertise which others lack.


  • Identifying retirees can be executed with the assistance of HR systems.

  • The retention process should be initiated four to six month prior to the retirement (and not later). Exceeding organizations will retain this type of knowledge years before retirement is even brought up (thus transforming the project from retiree knowledge retention to expert knowledge retention).

  • Sometimes workers nearing retirement become very tense when approached in order to document their knowledge since they then realize the reality of actually leaving the workplace. These difficulties and sensitivities should be considered.

Stage 1- mapping and prioritizing subjects to be retained:

Includes charting main issues the expert deals with. Prioritizing subjects which involve more valuable knowledge that should indeed retained.


  • Consider whether the organization will need this knowledge in the future (i.e. is it not outdated?)

  • Consider if there is an alternative source for the knowledge (which can be easily acquired)

Stage 2- retaining the knowledge:

Documenting the knowledge and information.


  • In case some documents preexist, they should be charted and placed together, with each document paired with an explanation regarding the importance of said document and instructions when/how to make use of it.

  • Orally transmitted knowledge should usually be documented using fixed templates.

  • The amount of time invested in the process should be decided a priori and it should be managed according to a structured work plan in order to ensure progress both through meetings and producing products and reaching predefined targets.

  • If at lost for another method, try covering all contacts related to the subject, insights, processing unique and unobvious processed and referencing central documents. If said expert has a replacement, he/she should be involved in the documented process in order for this transfer of power to work out; the retiree can review the replacement's notes and comment (either approving or disapproving).

Stage 3- merging the knowledge into the organizational environment:

Includes making the knowledge accessible in the organizational work environment. This stage is seemingly redundant, since the knowledge has already been documented in previous stages yet is the most important stage of the entire process. If the documented knowledge is not linked to the computerized environment in which the worker operates and can be accessed easily, the workers yet to retire will never access the data and knowledge and the investment, regardless of its importance, will go down the drain.


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