Nineteen percent of White Sands Missile Range Army Test and Evaluation Command employees could retire tomorrow, according to WSMR’s G1 personnel statistics. An additional 21 percent of this workforce is eligible to retire within the next one to five years. These alarming statistics places an immediate emphasis on knowledge management, which can be defined as the capturing, developing, sharing and using organizational knowledge.
“Knowledge management is critical to WSMR as it is a process to ensure information is shared between support enablers and test mission executors; between those eligible to retire and younger employees who may still be learning their craft,” said Col. Eric Rannow, WSMR Test Center commander.
In December of 2015, Rannow attended a retirement ceremony where four WSTC employees, each with over 30 years of work experience, were being recognized for their service to the nation. As the ceremony unfolded, Rannow said he became concerned when he realized that over 120 years of valuable institutional knowledge and experience was walking out the door.
“Knowledge management doesn’t just happen,” said WSMR Commander Brig. Gen. Timothy Coffin. “It takes planning and effort to ensure the mission can continue without degrading as people transition from the organization.”
Rannow said that one of the best things supervisors can do to facilitate knowledge management is to set the conditions where employees freely transfer information and know-how among themselves. One approach is to encourage people to ask questions on the job. These questions should then be captured and assembled into a job book. These job books quickly become continuity references and important tools for ensuring knowledge and experience is passed from one generation of WSMR ATEC employees to the next. The goal is to have a job/continuity book for each and every ATEC position, said Rannow. An employee can tailor their job book to suit the needs of their job but an example job/continuity book may include the following information:
– Appointment Orders (duties requiring special authorization such as duty appointment letters, DD577 signature authority, etc.)
– Duties and Responsibilities Description
– Organization Charts
– Common Tasks
– Standard Operating Procedures
– Technical/Operator’s Manuals
– Contact Lists/Phone Numbers
– Process Maps/Workflow Diagrams
– Calendars of Reoccurring Events/Suspense Timelines
– Job Aids
– Most-Referenced Websites
“Everyone would like to start their first day on the job with a binder full of critical information needed to succeed,” said WSMR Chief of Staff Glen Adams. “We owe this ‘passing of the torch’ to each other.”
Beyond job books, there are other actions which facilitate knowledge management. Supervisors should be holding exit interviews with employees leaving positions due to retirement or a new job, said Rannow. This information can be extremely useful to improving the organization for those charged with continuing the mission.
“I encourage job shadowing or job rotation opportunities as well,” he said. “Not only does this meet the intent of knowledge management, it opens employee’s aperture as to what everyone on the team does at WSMR, and can be extremely beneficial for professional development.”
As directorates incorporate techniques to facilitate knowledge management, the WSMR ATEC Command Group is emphasizing its importance by including knowledge management objectives on performance appraisals.
“All of the directors on my G Staff will have two objectives to complete a job book and to publish SOPs to the workforce,” said Adams. “The purpose of these objectives is to ensure our procedures are accessible by the workforce to help everyone do their job and will help bolster knowledge management.”