Critical expertise is being drained from many of the enterprises that will form the basis of the UAE’s transition away from oil and gas towards a home-grown knowledge economy. This year alone, thousands of redundancies have been announced in the UAE across a range of sectors, from banking and energy to infrastructure, construction and government.
As these employees leave, they take with them their invaluable expertise, amounting to a looming critical knowledge crisis for organisations across the region. It’s at times like these that simple but innovative retention of critical knowledge (Rock) programmes can mean the difference between surviving the current economic malaise and emerging stronger in the aftermath, or packing up your enterprise altogether.
However, even if you identify the problem of knowledge loss and take proactive steps to retain it, as an organisation you will still face the challenge of passing on that wisdom. The huge pool of valuable know-how that results from an ongoing Rock programme must be analysed, filtered and made accessible to your workforce to drive innovation, improve performance or reduce costs.
Fast-tracking Emiratisation and employee induction
It is often the smallest bits of advice that can be the most effective – the tips you are given by an experienced mentor when taking on a new role, for example. But in the present climate of mass redundancies, very few new hires have the luxury of learning the pitfalls of a given role from an experienced colleague, and therefore are forced to learn their predecessors’ lessons from scratch.
This problem becomes particularly acute when seeking to nationalise roles. Emiratisation programmes across the UAE, for example, struggle to absorb and retain the expertise of expatriate staff, retiring senior Emiratis or outgoing consultants, owing to high turnover and the inadequacy of knowledge management tools.
Introductory documents for new Emirati employees are often far too generic, and consist mainly of a job description. A Rock programme can help provide practical and prescient advice from the previous occupant of your new desk; valuable insights that in most cases leave the company between the ears of your predecessor. This isn’t about a 50-page manual crammed with business-speak – rather a clear, succinct and well-designed report based on a thorough Rock interview that has extracted the most vital “dos and don’ts” of the role.
• Read part one of David Grunfeld’s series here
• Read part two of David Grunfeld’s series here
Putting your critical knowledge to work
The knowledge base that results from an ongoing programme to retain knowledge provides a deep and ever-evolving reservoir to be leveraged to make work faster, easier and cheaper, in essence to innovate.
In some cases, failure to capture and share knowledge within an organisation can have disastrous consequences, such as a recent workplace incident in Abu Dhabi that cost several employees their lives. A Rock interview with one of our clients showed that this may have been averted if a simple lesson learnt from a previous incident had been effectively captured and communicated across the company. Stories such as this, although thankfully often less tragic, can be found in every organisation.
Lessons from a knowledge reservoir can benefit multiple departments – operations can use them to drive efficiency and cost savings; health and safety to improve employee safety and environmental effect; HR to strengthen training and nationalisation programs; communications to promote employee engagement and share best practices; strategy and the C-Suite to identify opportunities for growth or the need to adapt in the face of an impending challenge.
Rock and social collaboration
Many organisations in the region already have powerful software that could be mobilised to enable knowledge retention and distribution. Unfortunately, it is often underused or even completely unused. Similarly, social collaboration platforms are becoming increasingly common in the workplace, but are more likely to be employed to organise the company barbecue than share expertise.
By allowing and incentivising your employees to feed critical information to each other using these platforms, you can facilitate their work and promote better outcomes and deeper engagement. For example, engineers in the field can quickly and efficiently search for project-specific advice from their peers – both past and present – and from previous projects. With such managed systems in place, your critical knowledge begins to naturally evolve and expand, feeding on the successes and failures of your staff, project by project.
This is the ultimate goal of a Rock programme – to create a living archive of expertise that grows and becomes more valuable with the experience of your organisation and its people. Much as Google revolutionised the way the world’s information is organised and accessed, in the right hands Rock has the potential to transform organisations by putting a web of critical experience and real-world advice at the fingertips of their staff.
David Grunfeld is the managing director of Prose Solutions, a UAE-based knowledge and content development consultancy