June 4 2014

Bye Bye Boomers: Intergenerational Knowledge Transfer

Written by Lambda Solutions

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retirementsignThis past weekend, I was out for a hike with a family friend who has been an engineer in the pulp and paper industry for upwards of 30 years. His vocation is highly specialized and thus there are only a handful of people in North America who qualify for his position. After a lengthy discussion about the management issues in the industry, I began to think about the knowledge base of people who would soon replace him post-retirement. Curious, I asked him what systems were in place to transfer his billion dollar brain--mentoring, e-Learning, corporate training? To my dismay, his answer was "none of the above". He is not alone considering 80% of organizations acknowledge that they are not ready to quickly replace senior executives.

The much anticipated demographic shift is in full swing. Boomers are retiring at an alarming rate causing an exodus from the workforce never seen before. Unless you've discovered the fountain of youth, your organization is not immune to this phenomena. As corporations and institutions address this crisis, organizational learning and online education have a significant role in addressing intergenerational knowledge transfer.

When your retirees walk out the door, they’re not just taking their coffee mug and other personal memorabilia with them; they’re taking years of proprietary knowledge. Some of it might be about technology but there are also years upon years of policy and procedure development knowledge. Solutions need to be implemented to make sure company history remains as such--in the past.

It has been suggested that corporations might adjust by encouraging retiring boomers to work part time or come back in a consultative capacity. But is that realistic? Probably not.

To complicate matters, the millennial employees replacing the boomers are jumpier than previous generations. They might be with you a year or seven, but they are not likely to have the longevity factor of your former 30+ year employees.

Online Learning to the Rescue

All this means is that organizational skills training—ie knowledge transfer—must be as quick and effective as possible. It also needs to be repeatable. Online learning is the solution. There are a couple of reasons this is a great medium for the millennial work force.

First of all, it’s flexible. We all know this generation is less patient than previous generations. Online learning allows employees to take their training when and where it suits them.

Second, your millennial workforce gets the technology. You won’t need to worry about the technical acumen of these learners. They practically invented the technology themselves.

Invest in Digital Documentation

If your leadership team had the forethought to document every policy and procedure as well as every proprietary detail important to your company in a digital format, that’s great. You can stop reading now.

More likely you have not and have a bit of an issue at hand. You probably have a mix of soft copy and hard copy documentation. The worst-case scenario is having it all resting within the minds of your employees. Start working on digitizing all of this information as early as you can.

Once you have amassed this treasure chest of data you will be ready to work with your Chief Learning Officer to make sure an effective, efficient and sustainable online learning program is in place to transfer all that knowledge to others.

We can help too. Contact us to learn more.

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