A majority of organizations are experiencing demographic shifts in their workforces, with the Baby Boomers starting to retire en masse, Millennials comprising an ever-larger percentage of staff, and Generation X-ers moving up the career ladder to take on positions requiring more expertise and judgment. In environments with few experts and many potential learners, experts and long-tenured employees need to be able to share their knowledge broadly and efficiently across the workforce. At the same time, less experienced colleagues need ways to ask questions, get information and advice, and solve problems collaboratively.

In 2013, member-based nonprofit APQC surveyed more than 100 organizations to learn what tools and approaches they use to surface experts within the workforce—and which achieve the best results. Some of the participating organizations reported having official expertise location programs managed by HR, knowledge management, or a technical center of excellence, but others rely on more piecemeal approaches with different tools supported by different groups. Regardless of the level of formality applied to expertise location, APQC recommends adhering to the following five guidelines to ensure employees have ready access to experts and knowledgeable people across large, dispersed organizations.

Combine employee profiles with communities, discussion forums and social networking

Among the tools and approaches that organizations use for expertise location, communities of practice, discussion boards, and LinkedIn-style employee profiles are the most popular, especially at organizations that consider themselves very effective at meeting their expertise location goals (Figure 1). Survey participants also rate these three approaches as the most valuable for expertise location. Overall, organizations tend to favor tools and approaches that combine access to experts with meaningful opportunities for communication, collaboration and networking.

Many firms also rely on blogs, wikis and social networking to surface experts and knowledgeable people, but these tools complement, rather than replace, the three core approaches mentioned above. A relatively low percentage of organizations use microblogging for expertise location, though other APQC research suggests that tools like Yammer are slowly catching on.