Our ageing population is the result of two demographic trends:decreasing fertility levels and higher life expectancy. As acorollary to these demographic trends, the working population isageing and shrinking at the same time. This development will affectthe performance of organizations in the next decades. As today’seconomy and the performance of organizations are mainly based onknowledge, the ageing workforce will mainly affect theorganizations ability to be knowledge productive.
As current knowledge management (KM) and intellectual capital (IC)literature hardly addresses the issue of ageing, the aim of thispaper is to explore this topic in order to formulate an agenda forfurther KM/IC research.
Combining the temporary consequences of ageing (brain drain andtalent gap) and the false assumptions about the capabilities ofolder workers (older workers contribute negatively to a firm’sperformance), the current ageing of the working population revealstwo main risks for organizations and management: underutilizationof older employees, and loss of knowledge.
Based on the exploration of these two risks in this paper, severalissues are proposed for further research. These issues focus on thespecific competences of the older knowledge worker, theimplications for talent development programs, the benefits ofinter-generational learning, and effectiveness of knowledgeretention strategies.
Today, the main fear is that large scale retirement will lead to ashortage of skills, talents, knowledge. Although acknowledging therisks and threats of this brain drain, the current temporary ageingof our workforce might also contribute to a structural bettervaluation of the potential of the older knowledge worker and itsspecific contribution to the process of knowledge creation. In anageing knowledge economy, increased understanding about theabilities and distinct qualities of older workers will provideopportunities for organizations to enhance knowledge productivityand thus gain competitiveness.
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