FROM THE BENCH
Planning for the Future in Arizona
By Kathryn Wangsness , assistant bureau chief , Arizona State Public Health Laboratory and Pranav Chhaliyil , laboratory operations intern , Arizona State Public Health Laboratory interview in order to obtain authentic responses .
Pranav Chhaliyil interviews Kathryn Wangsness for Arizona ’ s Knowledge Retention Project . Photo : Arizona State PHL
In government , staff previously served most of their careers in the same organization . During their long tenures , they acquired skills and developed strategies for their positions , then passed along their knowledge to staff who were hired to replace them . But even before the COVID-19 pandemic , the nature of careers in public health laboratories began to change — becoming more technical and requiring more knowledge . And when someone left the laboratory or retired , their knowledge went with them .
In 2015 , the APHL Knowledge Management Committee developed a toolkit to capture details relating to a position , especially the different aspects of the job . It was curated to cover various positions from Laboratory Scientist to Laboratory Director . Building off the toolkit , the Knowledge Retention ( KR ) Project was developed to preserve the resources and strategies acquired by staff before retirement or organizational changes to create a resource that will be useful to successors and allow them to benefit from the knowledge of predecessors .
In September 2022 , then-Office Chief of Quality Assurance and Improvement and now Assistant Bureau Chief of the
Arizona State Public Health Laboratory Kathryn Wangsness introduced KR to her laboratory after the Arizona Management System identified staff who were critical to the agency and / or were retiring . Over the span of nine months , Wangsness and Laboratory Operations Intern Pranav Chhaliyil conducted in-depth interviews with more than 40 employees .
Casual Yet Professional
Multiple 30 – 60-minute interview sessions were held either in person or on Google Meet with staff , and were audio recorded with the permission of the interviewee . The emphasis was placed on helping the employees see the value of helping future generations in the agency by sharing their stories , experiences and tips .
“ I would tell them the project is like writing a biography to encourage them to share their journey ,” Chhaliyil reflected . And the response was overwhelmingly positive . Interviews were filled with laughter and stories from decades of experience in the agency . Some even took five sessions to complete the toolkit due to the level of detail and amount of information staff passionately shared . Questions were not provided prior to the
Original pre-made questionnaires based on the original Knowledge Management Committee toolkit were used for specific positions . Post-interview surveys were used to collect links to frequently accessed documents , SOPs , contacts , journals and more . And a feedback survey was used to collect data on the project itself , as well as the interview experience . Alongside the great experiences , there were some challenging situations that helped staff understand more about how the project can be more approachable in its introduction and where some employees were coming from ( e . g ., worried about their job standing ). There were turning points in the project , leading to a meeting between Wangsness and Chhaliyil , where they walked through an interviewee ’ s journey from the email interview request to the questions asked , finding places where information could be misinterpreted , giving rise to a change in communication style to a feedback survey asking what the interviewee felt about the project and how it can be improved .
The Knowledge Retention Project is a unique approach to preserving and transferring employee wisdom across generations with holistic questions addressing various aspects of a position from management style to roles in budget development .
“ This has been a great opportunity in helping retain information on tips and strategies developed by staff as well as identifying patterns in employee experiences that can be considered as feedback for the laboratory ,” Wangsness said . The team thanks Lorelei Kurimski and the APHL Quality Systems & Analytics team for introducing KR to them and encourages other agencies to implement the project to record the knowledge and experiences of their valued employees . g
8 LAB MATTERS Fall 2023
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