Canadian Manufacturing

Manage the impact of losing key people

Don’t leave mission-critical knowledge locked in employees’ files

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Sponsored article by SYSPRO

Manufacturers are already facing a well-publicized shortage of skilled labour.

There are a number of factors at play here: Baby boomer retirements are getting set to crest, massive oilsands companies are able to outbid the rest of the country for labour; and a number of substantial oil and infrastructure projects loom on the horizon, threatening to soak up another swath of skilled labour.

If you’re looking to hire for key positions, the situation sounds grim. However, technology can shield manufacturers from the worst effects of a shortage by transferring the operational knowledge and experience from workers—who can leave at any time for many reasons—into a system that you control.

It’s still quite common for small and mid-size manufacturers to employ individuals whose sudden, unplanned absence would result in a disastrous knowledge deficit for the company.

New, less-experienced employees can run the software without the huge disruption you would expect if you suddenly lost your key person.

I often meet people who hold a huge amount of a company’s business processes in their head. They may have developed complex customer databases, spreadsheets or applications no one else knows how to use. Or perhaps they’re the only employee trained to repair certain key equipment.

Business systems such as SYSPRO automate these processes and calculations. And even if that key person in your company isn’t set to retire any time soon, maybe your competitor is about to lose someone in a similar role. When they get desperate, they’re going to throw desperate money at your talent.

By limiting the human element in process and calculation, you make your business more portable and robust. New, less-experienced employees can run the software without the huge disruption you would expect if you suddenly lost your key person.

It’s common to see retiring highly-skilled workers dabble in consulting after retirement. Statistics Canada refers to this trend as “bridge employment” and calculates that nine per cent of the workforce in the 50 to 69 age group is working this way.

There are plenty of people looking for work—many simply don’t have the skills. By transferring institutional knowledge from people to technology, you lower the skills barrier, opening up a larger pool of potential employees.

Enterprise resource planning systems capture the knowledge from across your organization, making your processes more resilient to instability. With the demographic challenges ahead, it’s even more important to transfer your institutional knowledge to technology.

odeteOdete Passingham is the marketing director at SYSPRO Canada. SYSPRO is an ERP application consisting of finance, distribution and manufacturing controls for mid-size companies. To contact Odete, email: or call (604) 451-8889. Learn more about SYSPRO at


This article is part of the Manufacturing Growth & Innovation Centre, showcasing strategies for manufacturers on the move.

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