Re: Alumni networks... Knowledge retention strategy or Social club? #knowledge-retention

Murray Jennex

I think Matt has hit the topic on the head.  I know that there are several alumni networks that are used and have value, but the ones I know are in the utility/power plant industry, or in long lasting engineering firms with long lasting products.
I've studied capturing knowledge from retiring workers and as usual in KM, there is not a universal answer.  Organizations with long term products need to capture product knowledge from retiring employees.  Organizations with short term products such as software, still need to capture knowledge from retiring employees, but not product knowledge.  These organizations rely more on process to make them repeatable and this is the type of experience retiring employees have that needs to be captured.
So I guess what I'm saying is that initiatives to capture knowledge from retiring employees need to understand first what type of knowledge they need then tailor the initiative to capture that knowledge.
Also, I see alumni networks as risk mitigation, they are still useful as a safety net should you fail to capture the knowledge you need as you have the network in place to go find the human repository.

In a message dated 10/14/2010 1:43:31 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, innotecture@... writes:


I don't see that as a contradiction but rather an acknowledgement that different kinds of knowledge have different shelf-lives. If you are working with an asset with a lifespan of decades (e.g. a powerplant) then you need to take a knowledge perspective that is longer than any individual's working life (which isn't to say that a particular issue might not have a shorter lifespan). Whereas in the computer software business, you might completely rearchitect your product every few years (which isn't to say that knowledge of broader industry issues doesn't have a longer lifespan).

We need to take a managerial perspective on knowledge lifespan appropriate for the context. And we will probably need a mix of short term and long term views.

As for retiring employees lacking the most up-to-date knowledge about their field. I suspect this is often true - but that's not what I'd want from these people. I want the old stuff.


Matt Moore
+61 423 784 504
Sent from my iPhone

On Oct 15, 2010, at 6:57 AM, dkkildebeck@... wrote:



I don't have a direct answer to your question, but a comment related to the topic you bring up. It seems that we are suffering from a dramtic contradiction in our culture as to the actual value of knowledge that "retires" from an organization. On one hand when a particular topic calls for it, we race to throw out stratistics and chatter all about the "short-shelf-life of knowledge", the amount of information that churns in the world today (i.e total world knowledge doubles every two years), how in many industries, the working know-how changes 25% every year, and in general how rapid EVERYTHING changes, etc etc etc.

THEN, when topics like retiring knowledge come up, we race the other direction and play up how valuable retiring workers knowledge is and how we must capture it or else we're doomed, etc. So which is it?

My personal belief, having worked the process of capturing retiring knowledge from long-time (avg. 40 years) employees, I found that the retirement "slide" that often occurs, almost guarantees that the knowledge holder retiring is already lacking the most up-to-date knowledge of his/her profession BEFORE they even retire. I have no studies to back this up, just my working experience.


Don Kildebeck


----- Original Message -----
From: "Chris Collison" <chris@...>
To: sikmleaders@...
Sent: Thursday, October 14, 2010 12:42:49 PM
Subject: [sikmleaders] Alumni networks...  Knowledge retention strategy or Social club?


Lots of companies have Alumni Networks for former employees (LinkedIn is full of them!).

Are any of them are really used effectively as a way to access key "retired knowledge and expertise"?
Or do they really just serve a social function (still valued by the members, but not really prized the company)?

Does anyone have any good examples to share, where an organisation is working strategically with its alumni network to continue to involve them and retain access to their know-how?

I'm hoping that SIs are better at this than your average big company...
Grateful for any examples - good or bad.
Many thanks,

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