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The Opportunity in Knowledge Transfer

While travelling on vacation in Italy this past summer, I had the good fortune to meet a recently retired Italian gentleman who had a long and successful career in the Health/Pharmaceutical industry as a scientist. He was a so- called “Pensionato“; however, this gentleman, a relatively young 60 years old in today’s work world, he was a very reluctant Pensionato.

The circumstances of his retirement were largely the confluence of corporate takeovers and “layoffs”. It was effectively out of his hands and, together with some of the really challenging problems of the Italian economy, he had gained many concerns for the situation. One large concern was that he felt he had a wealth of knowledge and experience along with a lot more ‘runway ‘ left in his career. He focused in on one aspect of his value as a worker, specifically the tremendous knowledge capital he had acquired, and why at the very least his company, and in fact others, would not value his ‘knowledge transfer ‘ capability.

We talked extensively about him starting, albeit somewhat later in his career, to become a contractor. Together with offering his “as needed skills” and his knowledge capital acquired, he could market his ability to transfer that to new generations as his big differentiator. Unfortunately, rigid and old economy-constraining and confusing rules in Italy meant he would largely jeopardize his small pension by doing this, but it’s a shame that a vital and valuable resource would effectively sit on the sidelines with so much to offer

It made me think of the idea, in fact conundrum, of corporate knowledge transfer in companies today. We are now seeing companies talk about it a great deal as key but studies show it is largely aspirational as opposed to reality. Demographics alone in North America and Europe will strongly suggest an unprecedented loss of experience and knowledge in the years ahead, especially in many governments where generous pensions see older workers retiring the moment they are eligible.

Contractors are used by governments and corporations as part of a key tactical and strategic workforce model to provide the skills they need on an as and when needed or project-based model. Forward thinking organizations are also using them in part to potentially begin to acquire the knowledge and skills that they don’t have internally.

Independent contractors as part of their value proposition to client organizations should see this as key component of what they have to offer in each and every assignment. My friend “Arturo” would love nothing better than to be able to provide any organization such a service.  Are you taking advantage of this opportunity and marketing yourself as an expert who can transfer knowledge to new generations?  It’s definitely a differentiator for your business and something to consider!