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Battling the brain drain

September 18, 2013 • Opinion, Southern Africa

Gys Kappers, CEO of WyseTalk. (Image source: WyseTalk)

Gys Kappers, CEO of WyseTalk. (Image source: WyseTalk)

Due to a unique mix of economic and political variables, South Africa continues to suffer the devastatingconsequences of a seemingly unstoppable brain drain says Gys Kappers, CEO of WyseTalk.

“As we bleed skills and knowledge, organisations’ output and competitiveness continues to suffer, and the cost of re-seeding lost competence and specialisation is both prohibitive and completely unnecessary.”

Understanding knowledge…

Underlying the problem of knowledge retention in the face of high staff turnover are a few common misperceptions about knowledge itself.

Knowledge and the knower

Knowledge, according to Davenport and Prusak (1998), is “a fluid mix of … experiences, values, contextual information and expert insight”. “Don’t get side-tracked – the point is that all of these are transferable and can be made accessible to anyone within an organisation,” adds Kappers.

Knowledge, role and talent

Whereas dealing in specialised or privileged knowledge is necessarily role-based in organisations, its creation (a process known as innovation) does not happen solely within the realm of job specialisation, talent or inspiration. “Knowledge can be created and amplified, over and over again, by merely practising well-institutionalised innovation processes.”

Knowledge and numbers

With the attainment of knowledge thus demystified, it follows that the more participate in its creation, the better. Adds Kappers: “The potential for innovation is everywhere in organisations. It exists outside R&D and your executive within your staff, business partners, customers, shareholders and the general public. The more that participate in its creation, the merrier.”

… and capturing it

Many strategies have emerged on multiple fronts to plug the knowledge sinkholes that appear with the on-going skills crisis, but few have asked: how can we capture the knowledge people contribute and possess tacitly? And how can capturing it be made integral to our organisational processes?

Continues Kappers: “Those who have asked these questions have relied on knowledge management, collaboration and communication tools, but all these technologies have failed to capture and make knowledge easily accessible within the enterprise.

-          Email, not a collaborative technology at heart, doesn’t lend itself to mass participation or information management.

-          Intranets are notice boards with little opportunity for interactive discussion.

-          Collaborative software platforms alone do not include the communications necessary for idea sharing.

-          Knowledge management platforms have failed to inspire mass uptake in organisations.”

Social to the rescue

Technologies that truly assist in the capture, creation, sharing and documentation of knowledge have therefore yet to be deployed en masse, but the emergence of social business software (SBS) has brought answers to all these requirements.

Mass participation

SBS is a compelling, intuitive form of communication that ignites participation and lets organisations conduct all their conversations in one place. It gives organisational stakeholders a collective or group-based platform within which to contribute to the corporate conversation, safely and equally.

Sharing, creation and documentation

As SBS also contain collaborative functionality, it allows for the amplification of knowledge. And in sharing knowledge, SBS also aids the creation of knowledge. Although ideas are formed in the minds of individuals, interactions between individuals often play a critical role in developing these ideas. Social business communities can span geographical, departmental or indeed organisational boundaries. SBS also acts as a searchable knowledge repository for documents and best practices.

The culture of innovation

“In the face of rampant skills losses and erosion of knowledge, SBS can help organisations retain the value created by individuals and groups and capture their tacit knowledge, so that their influence may guide and inspire others long after they’re gone, and even get new recruits up to speed before they join. In short, SBS encapsulates the very spirit of innovative, knowledge-driven organisations,” concludes Kappers.

Staff Writer

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