The knowledge gap created in the wake of Baby Boomers exiting the workplace can be vast. Companies that don’t plan for generational management shifts risk falling behind and losing out to their competitors. Now more than ever, it’s essential to have a succession plan, a process for identifying and developing new leaders who can replace previous leaders. Companies from Deloitte to defense contractor BAE Systems, General Motors, and General Electric are scrambling to ensure millions of younger managers from the so-called millennial generation—those born from roughly 1981 to 1997—are ready to step into leadership roles as baby boomers bow out of the workforce. About 10,000 reach retirement age every day.
13 ways to transfer knowledge to younger generations
Here are thirteen knowledge-transferring approaches to equip the future Millennial leaders and future-proof your organization against the potential greatest brain drain the world has ever seen.
Have senior leaders teach courses (inside classrooms, webcasts, or webinars) where they can showcase their knowledge and expertise.
2. Reciprocal mentoring.
What veteran employees know and what novice employees know are often complementary. In reciprocal mentoring, Baby Boomers have a chance to mentor and learn things that might aid them in an encore career, and Millennials are likely to remain at a company when they are in a position to grow and contribute.
Veteran employees can distill their expertise into infographics that can be easily consumed by emerging leaders. Have them team up with the design team or create these infographics themselves.
4. Video recordings
Task a Millennial team to capture a professional video of experienced workers sharing their knowledge and expertise. Not only will Millennials be excited to contribute to an innovative project, but they will have a front-row seat to soak up the wisdom. Then create a YouTube-like resource where the videos are accessible company-wide and easily searchable. Look are REWO to start making instructional augmented video guides to store knowledge of your retiring workforce.
Partner emerging leaders with senior leaders in a more formal coaching structure. Keep the exchanges candid and conversational.
Give emerging leaders front-row seats to various leadership processes and procedures, meetings, site visits, or operations abroad.
Task experienced workers with screencasting (digital recording of a computer screen with audio narration) how they effectively source leads, prioritize e-mails or to-do lists, use internal platforms, or navigate the company intranet.
8. Involve senior leaders to transfer knowledge
Have senior leaders participate in the new-hire onboarding process, training, or cross-department training programs.
9. Intergenerational teaming
Routinely pair emerging leaders with seasoned leaders, and/or arrange the workspace in a way that encourages emerging leaders to collaborate and interact with other generations.
10. Podcast to transfer knowledge
Task a Millennial team to launch, produce, and host an internal company podcast where experienced employees can be interviewed to draw out their tacit knowledge.
11. Culture of learning
Create a company culture that puts a premium on learning, where employees are empowered and encouraged to practice in-the-moment learning. Create an environment of learn-it-alls instead of know-it-alls.
12. Leader vlogs to transfer knowledge
Encourage senior leaders to use their smartphones or laptop cameras to capture their workplace productivity tips, perspectives on the industry, career advice, and the vision of the company. Share the videos via an internal vlog (video blog).
13. Leader onboarding
Onboarding shouldn’t be reserved just for new hires. Bank of America has an onboarding program to help new executives adapt to the corporate culture and learn from senior executives.
Which companies are working on how to transfer knowledge
When BAE, a multinational defense and aerospace company, learns that an employee with deep institutional knowledge plans to retire, whether in a few months or a couple of years, a knowledge-transfer group of about a half-dozen people of varying ages working in the same area is formed. The teams meet regularly over months to talk and exchange advice. Younger workers elicit tips, and in some cases older ones gradually hand off tasks to junior employees. The program began as a pilot in 2013; during the past two years, BAE has expanded it across the company. BAE has quantified the payoff of its knowledge-transfer efforts by looking at variables such as direct and indirect costs and productivity. They’re saving on average between $120,000 to $180,000′ per project.
And BAE is not alone. GE runs programs in its GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and GE Transportation units, among others. Retaining technical knowledge and capabilities is a focus. ETS set up knowledge-sharing partnerships between key personnel and colleagues within the same departments. Action plans, based on individual learning goals established for participating employees, are followed over several months. GM uses educational training and mentorships to help bridge the generation gap. It wants its leaders to function more as coaches, the automaker has said. And Bank of America has a so-called onboarding program to help new workers adapt to the corporate culture and learn from senior executives.
What should you save for later generations
Strive to capture all knowledge transfer via video, audio, or written word so that the details can be compiled on a company wiki, SharePoint, or blog where it can be readily available to current and future employees and where it can be continually updated. Examples of knowledge worth transferring:
- Top salespeople share the stories of their biggest wins.
- Senior programmers screencast their daily workflow.
- An HR manager teaches a course covering how he or she tackled a challenge that is sure to repeat itself.
- An experienced technician records a video about how to safely and swiftly repair customer equipment.
- A senior leader discusses his or her passion for the industry and respect for the company history on a podcast.
To sum up, companies that don’t plan for generational management shifts risk falling behind and losing out to their competitors.