Strategies for Retaining Organizational Knowledge Within Your Municipality

Lena Eisenstein
5 min read
Baby boomers make up the bulk of today's workforce in nearly every category of employment. As baby boomers near retirement age, that is about to change. While they will be leaving their file folders, keys and important client information behind, they will be taking a host of operational and organizational knowledge with them.

In our recent iCompass, a Diligent brand, survey of municipal workers, just over 12% of the respondents stated that they had five more years until they retired. Slightly more than 23% of those surveyed stated that they planned to retire within six to 10 years. In total, key municipal staff told us that they'd have 66% turnover across the board regardless of the department in the next 10 years.

Our survey also indicated that 25% of municipal employees stated that employee recruitment and retention was on their minds. As the baby boomers consider their retirement plans, Gen-Xers and millennials are beginning to replace the boomers as the main staples of the workforce. In an article called 'How to Engage Millennials in the Workplace,' experts forecast that millennials will make up half the global workforce by 2020 and they'll compose 75% by the year 2025. To address the next two waves of pending retirements, local governments will need to recruit, engage and train younger workers. Municipalities can best prepare for retaining organizational knowledge by starting succession planning, engaging millennials, and taking advantage of exit interviews and technology.

Start Succession Planning

Your government office will experience a gradual takeover by the millennial generation over the next 10 years. The time to begin planning for it is now because it's the best time to start recruiting, engaging and training millennials so that they can pick up organizational knowledge before the baby boomers retire.

In the interest of attracting and retaining millennials, local governments would do well to consider their unique characteristics. Millennials are highly interested in career development. According to Forbes, the primary reason millennials leave their place of employment is that they don't anticipate meaningful career opportunities. Millennials are also highly familiar with social media and technology, which can be a real asset for municipal governments. Another identifying quality of millennials is that they have an appreciation for a healthy work-life balance.

As millennials join your workforce, provide them with constructive feedback and recognition of work well done. Start conversations about prospects for career development early on. For a mutually beneficial activity, be sure to tap their wisdom and experience in how to use social media platforms to best engage citizens. Remember that millennials grew up in a more relaxed environment than baby boomers. They'll appreciate being given opportunities to have some form of a flexible work schedule to help them balance their responsibilities on the job and at home. A 2013 retention study showed that 45% of millennials would choose workplace flexibility over increased pay.

Last, millennials are typically health conscious and active. Workplaces that offer employer-sponsored family activities and wellness programs speak volumes to millennials.

Engage Millennials

Something that many employers miss is understanding the difference between employee engagement and employee satisfaction. Engagement and satisfaction are highly important factors for millennials. Satisfaction refers to an employee's happiness in their workplace. Engagement refers to feeling motivated and enthusiastic about their work. Feeling engaged translates to employees who desire to enhance and further the reputation and interests of their workplace.

First, millennials want to know that they have a purpose. It's not enough to tell them what to do. You'll have better results if you can help them see the big picture. They want to know why they're doing certain tasks.

Second, increase their responsibilities as they can handle them. Millennials aren't afraid to take on big or new projects. A degree of responsibility gives them an important sense of ownership.

Third, give them mentors. They like to learn, so give them opportunities to learn from the best. Millennials will eat up all the organizational knowledge that a seasoned mentor can provide.

Finally, invest in them. Don't forget that millennials are highly interested in career development. Provide new challenges to test their skills.

Take Advantage of Exit Interviews

With many employees leaving local government within the next 10 years, exit interviews will become very important tools for staff. Exit interviews give local governments the employee perspective of employee satisfaction without leaving it to assumptions. Encourage retiring employees to be brutally honest.

Stress to the departing employee that their exit interview will be held in the strictest confidence. Take action if an exit interview reveals any type of criminal behavior, sexual harassment or other legal concerns. Make a special note of concerns that are repeated by multiple employees.

Not only will you learn where the staff can improve itself, you also get to send the employee off with a good feeling.

Take Advantage of Technology

As millennials begin to place their stamp on local government, they will become a beneficial asset in using technology devised specifically for local government.

Our survey of local government workers showed that only 25% of municipalities have video streaming for meetings in place. Less than 2% of municipalities planned for video streaming of council meetings in their 2018 budgets. Video streaming is a cost-effective way to increase citizen engagement, especially in the younger populations. Video and audio recordings of council meetings eliminate disputes over meeting minutes and council decisions. Millennials will be quite familiar with video terms like HD and 360, which will help local governments tap the power of technology.

In addition to live video and audio streaming, iCompass, a Diligent brand, offers other software solutions for good corporate governance, including meeting management software and software to efficiently manage boards and commissions. Millennials are apt to have many insightful ideas for how to enhance the local government's website to make it more attractive and engaging.

There's no denying that the work environment in local governments is transforming. There's no need to fear change when municipalities prepare for the millennials now with a plan to transfer organizational knowledge to the next generation of municipal workers. Successful change will require having an understanding of generational differences and tapping the talents of the new workforce. The outgoing workforce provides an opportunity for staff to learn more about how to engage and satisfy millennials. These strategies will help municipalities retain important organizational knowledge while allowing millennials to take local governments to the next level.