Larry Phillips, professor of Human Resource Management at Indiana University South Bend, presents his predictions about the future of HR on the HR.com Web site under the title, “HR2017: Where Are We Going and How Do We Get There?” One of the topics he addresses in that article is the future of human resource development. He predicts that the most important area will be knowledge management. He writes:
In a knowledge economy, it is not the brilliance of one individual but the collective knowledge that is important. We do not need to reinvent the wheel every time an issue surfaces. Sophisticated knowledge management software systems can ensure that knowledge is available to those who need it.
I would agree that in 10 years knowledge management systems will still be part of the role of HRD, but I think knowledge management will have found its place within organizations and no longer be an area of concern. Organizations today that have sophisticated knowledge management systems are not getting the benefits of these repositories of knowledge. These organizations have found that having information readily available online does not mean that people will or will want to learn that way. And reading something does not necessarily mean that the information has been learned. For many types of information, assimilation of knowledge requires discussion with others, personal reflection, and practice, practice, practice. As for Dr. Phillips’ concern about capturing the collective knowledge of Baby Boomers, in some industries, it might already be too late. People are leaving the US auto business in droves due to early retirements and buy-outs. As they go out the door, so goes decades of knowledge about auto manufacturing, marketing, and selling.