Empowering your employees does not mean you are opening the entire set of books to the employee. It means you are allowing your employees to have the autonomy and responsibility related to the decision-making within their organizational roles, but also allowing them knowledge of the organization to make those decisions. Throughout 23 years in the Navy, it was obvious how critical knowledge management was for mission success, but also that knowledge management is the responsibility of the entire organization vice a select few. With the influx of information technology programs came faster methods of sharing and storing knowledge, but creating or transferring the knowledge continues to be more of a person-to-person process requiring employees to interact outside of SharePoint or other document sharing programs. Person-to-person processes include face-to-face meetings, video teleconferencing, telephone conference calls, and virtual methods such as Skype, chat rooms, or interactive postings.
As part of the 2012 census, the Bureau of Labor Statistics updates included the decrease in labor forces of those aged 25 to 54 years from 1992 by 6.1% and projection of a further decrease in labor forces of this age group in 2022 by an additional 2.2% taking the overall labor in that age group to 63.1%. In 2013, the United States Maritime Administration (MARAD) released a study, The Economic Importance of the U.S. Shipbuilding and Repairing Industry. MARAD’s study indicated Virginia had the largest total private employment of U.S. shipbuilding and ship repair at a total of 26,730 or 24.9%. In addition to the decreases of those aged 25 to 54 years, literature regarding organizations and Baby Boomers also shows the concern about continual losses of trade experience of those eligible for retirement at age 65.
With the continued decrease in labor forces, and retirement of those eligible to retire at age 65, what can organizations do to improve firm performance as the labor forces decrease and reduce the risk of knowledge losses? From a survey of 69 Virginia Ship Repair Association participants with first-hand knowledge of how their organizations manage knowledge regarding the effects of knowledge management and innovation on firm performance, there was a resultant 34% correlation found between knowledge management and innovation on firm performance with knowledge management having a more positive correlation to firm performance than innovation. This value of the study is that it supports the need to continue support of organizational knowledge management and to improve innovation within the organizations. With organizational improvements to include increased contribution of employee ideas as well as increased mentorship and leadership throughout the workforce, this may show an increase in product quality and services to customers
The question now is, “What can organizations do to empower their employees in the management of organizational knowledge for the benefit of the firm’s performance, and what can organizations to do to include employee empowerment as part of their organizational culture?” Through person-to-person knowledge sharing, and with it the creation and transfer of knowledge through experience or mentorship of employees, a culture of knowledge management and innovation at all levels can promote positive personal and professional development of the workforce. This should not only improve organization performance, but should increase the value felt by your employees, which may also lead to higher employee retention. Think again about the employee empowerment at the beginning of this article. How important is the finding out what you can do at all levels to improve your organization’s firm performance through employee empowerment using knowledge management?
About the Author
Dr. Cindy Young is a retired U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officer with 23 years of service and is a Knowledge Manager with McKean Defense as well as an Adjunct Professor at Stratford University – both in Virginia Beach, VA. While in the Navy, she deployed four times on three ships, USS ARTHUR W. RADFORD (DD 968), USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV 67), and USS JAMES E. WILLIAMS (DDG 95). As a Surface Warfare Officer her expertise was in the tactical employment of the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile.
As a Knowledge Manager, she supports Surface Team One (ST1) Knowledge Sharing Networks for surface ship maintenance validating current policy, stakeholders, milestone compliance, and exit criteria as they affect surface ship readiness for deployment. She wrote her doctoral study, Knowledge Management and Innovation on Firm Performance in United States Ship Repair, as her capstone project for her Doctor of Business Administration. She is also the author of The Refractive Thinker®: Vol XI: Women in Leadership, Chapter 3: Using Leadership to Improve Firm Performance through Knowledge Management.
Dr. Young will be speaking more about her study responses and results along with recommendations at ASNE’s FMMS 2016 in September.
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