By Dr Lydia Cillié-Schmidt
Many organisations are faced with the management of knowledge transfer in a multi-generational workforce, from the millennials to the retiring Baby Boomers. The so-called “silver tsunami” refers to the Baby Boomers who are either retiring in great numbers or prolonging their careers.
The greatest risk that the departure of these experienced Baby Boomers has been associated with is the loss of institutional knowledge. A further risk is what is called the loss of “unique knowledge”. Panopto (https://www.panopto.com/everyday-expertise/) in their 2018 Workplace Knowledge and Productivity report describes unique knowledge as follows: “Every job has its nuances. Every organization has its own customs and culture. Every employee, therefore, ends up with knowledge that no one else has. And that knowledge is not only rare but valuable. Call it ‘unique knowledge.’ It consists of everything an employee gains through specialized training and insider learning. Unique knowledge varies from organization to organization and from position to position. But it’s instrumental in tackling the complex problems and unexpected challenges that employees encounter at work more or less every day”. A further risk is that knowledge may be captured, but not effectively transferred to the younger generations.
Many organisations find it difficult to capture and transfer the institutional and unique knowledge before the Baby Boomers retire as most employees find it very challenging to explain what they know and how they got to know what they know. This loss of knowledge has several side effects, such as a negative impact on the company’s bottom line. Panopto calculated in their report that inadequate knowledge sharing cost organisations money. For example, a business with 3,000 employees loses $8 million annually (https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/inefficient-knowledge-sharing-costs-large-businesses-47-million-per-year-300681971.html).
Many organisations have started with innovative ideas to capture and transfer knowledge, for example the use of an “expert interview” as part of a very comprehensive strategy by SafeBuild as described at https://icma.org/articles/article/training-silver-tsunami. Others use video-capture technologies such as that of Panopto.
We (The Talent Hub) have been working for a while now with the learning paths methodology pioneered by Learning Paths International (www.learningpaths.com) and find that the methodology allows for a comprehensive approach to capture and distribute not only knowledge, but everything that the person goes through to become proficient. Using this methodology, you first get a good description of what is expected in the role (capturing the “nuances” too), culminating in what is called a proficiency definition. Once you understand all the activities that lead to proficiency, a learning path is designed that covers the sequence of activities that will lead to proficiency. Capturing these activities with the relevant reflection tasks, assessments and content in a learning experience management system such as TREK (https://elearningbrothers.com/trek/) makes it easy to monitor the transfer and application of the knowledge and skills. The addition of gamification principles further adds to a better knowledge transfer and application experience.
Using learning paths helped us to determine exactly what institutional- and unique knowledge lead to proficiency in a certain role and then to capture it all in a learning path to ensure that the retiring Bay Boomer did not leave a knowledge gap. What are you doing to manage the Silver Tsunami?
Lydia is an independent consultant and owner of “The Talent Hub” and Director of “The Talent Hub International”. The Talent Hub’s focus areas include the design and implementation of talent management processes and strategy across the employee lifecycle, including acquisition, deployment, development and engagement. The Talent Hub is the implementation Partner for Learning Paths International, as well as Appraisal Smart in South Africa. The Talent Hub International Partnered with Brandon Partners on Organisational Savvy and HappyOrNot employee engagement terminals. These processes are supported by leadership development programmes, assessment centres, psychometric assessments, the design and presentation of training programmes, coaching, mentoring, performance management and succession development.