In an environment of ever-changing customer expectations, markets and technologies, it’s clear that a strong organizational training strategy is crucial to protecting against internal skills loss and knowledge drain and to ensure a quality culture in organizations.

The second Global State of Quality research study surveyed nearly 1,700 companies from 20 countries. More than 40 percent of the organizations believe that retaining knowledge impacts their quality programs.

Knowledge drain is poised to create challenges for organizations as shifting demographics continue to reshape the workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2020, about 25 percent of the U.S. workforce will be composed of workers 55 and older, and by 2024, the median age of U.S. workers is expected to be 42.4 years old. In addition, more workers are retiring, relocating or leaving their companies to pursue other opportunities. These changes have many short- and long-term implications, including impacting customer satisfaction and training.


Interestingly, the Global State of Quality study found that world-class organizations – those that invest more in quality improvement initiatives and have strong performance metrics – are much more likely to have robust training programs in place to help alleviate brain drain. In fact, 100 percent of the world-class organizations surveyed train all of their employees – more than double the rate of non-world-class organizations. World-class organizations also are:

  • More than twice as likely to offer training on regulations
  • More than three times as likely to offer training on customer experience
  • More than twice as likely to train their suppliers
  • Twice as likely to apply knowledge transfer techniques from retiring employees

To elevate your training program to a world-class level, review the types of training and new competencies your organization needs, assess gaps and opportunities to develop new skills and analytics, and tie these investments to the overall business operations and strategy. Here are some initial steps that can serve as guidance during this process.

1. Analyze workforce strengths and skills to determine core competencies.

If employees only share their knowledge with a few co-workers, there are few benefits to the organization as a whole. The knowledge is locked in an information silo, an insular system that isn’t shared broadly throughout the organization. Evaluate employees’ expertise, and share it so that it becomes widely accessible and serves as an opportunity to strengthen the overall workforce.

2. Assess knowledge gaps and determine where employees look for specific information.

According to the American Productivity & Quality Center (APQC), knowledge asset mapping is a dynamic process and a valuable exercise to help organizations locate the internal knowledge that can make a difference in their ability to compete and prosper. APQC author Vicki Powers writes that knowledge mapping can be effective for small and large organizations alike, and understanding the context of the business process an organization is working to improve will help it understand its gaps and strengths.

Once mapped, companies should make this employee knowledge more rapidly accessible to the whole organization via communication vehicles such as emails and informal meetings.

3. Use technology to drive internal communications.

The availability of real-time multimedia on any device, anywhere in the world, has a major impact on how companies provide communications and training. While the platform is only as good as the content placed in it, intranets, videoconferencing, peer-to-peer technology and podcasts are growing in importance as tools that bring employees together from around the world.

4. Develop engaging role models.

Organizational leaders should serve as key drivers of employee engagement, selecting and developing people who can act as internal and external role models and creating an environment in which people are appreciated and motivated.