A TRC project titled, “Vermont Agency of Transportation Employee Retention and Knowledge Management Study” was recently named a High Value Research (HVR) project by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Research Advisory Committee’s (RAC) Northeast Region for national recognition. The project will be presented in July in Santa Fe, New Mexico at the summer RAC meeting by VTrans’ Research Manager, Emily Parkany. A poster presentation will also be made during the 2020 TRB Annual Meeting.
TRC’s Glenn McRae and Carol Vallett (retired), along with Jennifer Jewiss of the College of Education and Social Services, partnered with VTrans to conduct the research. The agency was concerned with employee turnover and subsequent loss of important and accumulated knowledge. “Many external factors are impacting the transportation workforce in Vermont including severe weather events due to climate change and aging demographics of the state,” said Vallett. “VTrans leaders are to be commended for supporting a research project that addressed these challenges and for immediately implementing several findings from this study.”
This applied study used mixed methods data gathering to determine the current state of employee retention and knowledge management at VTrans in order to provide tools that could mitigate both issues. Research and pilot efforts provided a tool for comprehensive exit interviews and identified priority areas for process improvement. A knowledge management assessment was also conducted and specific recommendations on knowledge management were advanced, with a focus on capturing and sharing tacit knowledge, and benchmarking against promising practices at other state DOTs.
VTrans Research Manager Emily Parkany who nominated the project also indicated that the project led to partial implementation and has made additional staff aware of Agency-wide issues surrounding recruitment, retention, and knowledge management. “The project has received high level support from the Secretary, multiple Division Directors, Human Resources, and Civil Rights.” Parkany indicated that the project was worthy of HVR designation because regional peers may find value in the topic and results.
“This valuable research really helped us to define and ultimately implement an exit interview process for all employees,” VTrans’ Director of Organizational Development, Christine Hetzel said. “The knowledge management portion of this project was a great awareness building tool with our teams about the importance of intentional knowledge management practices.”