Water Environment Federation (WEF)

A Knowledge Retention Strategy for the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation


As the baby boomer generation approaches retirement age, utilities are faced with losing the knowledge that has made their daily business processes functional. The US Bureau of Labor statistics estimates that 40% of the nation’s water and wastewater utilities staff are eligible to retire in the next five years, taking their knowledge with them. The Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation (Bureau) faces a potential loss of critical “corporate” knowledge as more than 50% of its workforce will be eligible to retire in the next five years. Rather than ignoring its aging workforce, the Bureau has taken steps to avoid significant impacts from this looming loss of knowledge. A knowledge retention approach poses dilemmas in whether to focus your knowledge retention strategy on people or information technology. The Bureau recognized that an over reliance on technology could create or reinforce silos in the organization whereas a people approach can be limiting in its reach across the organization.

An initial step was taken in Spring 2006 to address the Bureau’s knowledge retention situation and map out a strategy to retain knowledge critical to the its operations. This paper will present the steps taken to identify critical knowledge at risk of being lost by the Bureau and the approach recommended to avoid that loss. In this process, care was taken to recognize that a successful strategy must be multifaceted. Effective solutions employ not only information technology tools, but also social networks and policies/procedures. The Bureau has embarked on its knowledge retention strategy and will take steps in the next fiscal year to address the most critical knowledge at-risk of being lost. Other steps will be taken over the following five years to be more prepared for the retirement of more than half of its workforce.


Knowledge retention, retirement, lost knowledge, tacit knowledge, explicit knowledge.

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