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The American Water Works Association Research Foundation (AwwaRF) and Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) co-funded a research project titled “Succession Planning for a Vital Workforce in the Information Age.” This study began in January 2003. This study was driven by a number of diverse factors, including:

The demographics of the current workforce which is expected to result in the loss of sizeable numbers of senior employees during the next 10 years;

The changing nature of the new, replacement workforce;

The changing training needs for new employees as our utility plants become more and more automated; and

Poor preparedness of existing utilities with respect to knowledge management, succession planning and retention.

While water utilities in general must address the issues associated with the changing workforce, the wastewater field is particularly prone to the loss of knowledge as many employment and service tenures coincide with the promulgation of the Clean Water Act in 1972 establishing the basis for the upgraded/expanded treatment plants that followed in the 1970's and 1980's. Based on brief introductions of the FCSA participants at the kickoff meeting, it was apparent the average age of the pilot study group met or exceeded the industry age statistics. In one key operational area, all three FCSA employees were in their mid to late 50's and within several years of retirement.

An approach to capturing important tacit knowledge within a short time frame was developed and The Frederick County Sanitation Authority (FCSA) contributed to the research effort by conducting a knowledge process mapping pilot study with the help of members of the AwwaRF research team. The AwwaRF/WERF project developed a “Knowledge Capture” methodology -the first such demonstration in the water and wastewater utility industry.

The two primary objectives of the pilot study exercise were to map the critical resources and knowledge, and to identify the flow of work that directly adds value or addresses critical operating parameters. This second objective would increase in importance as the knowledge capture exercises were conducted. The exercises revealed secondary benefits to the Authority not directly related to the tacit knowledge sought during the pilot.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2005-01-01

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