Baby boomers aren’t retiring in droves, but their numbers in the workforce are dwindling significantly. And when boomers retire, they take with them a generation of beliefs and workstyles. Perhaps most importantly, they leave with vast quantities of “tribal knowledge”: exclusive technical, product or process information. This information is rarely stored on the web or in a filing cabinet; rather, it’s locked up in veteran employees’ brains until they walk out the door.
Corporations who find ways to navigate the shift from boomers to millennials successfully, members of Generation Z and other cohorts will have a huge advantage. Here are seven practical strategies to help you on your way.
Lean Into Machine Learning
Collecting data and feeding it to systems with artificial intelligence elements can help you pull exclusive information out of someone’s head and make it visible to teams. If you have workers writing daily logs or otherwise recapping their activities, getting them to tag information using their tribal knowledge can turn that data into valuable insights. Your competitors may already be doing this, and younger workers may want to work for companies that embrace AI.
Provide Faster, Simpler Workplace Technology
Products from companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have shaped younger workers’ views on technology. Many, for example, prefer touchscreen functionality over knobs and dials. The sooner you implement tools that millennials and members of Gen Z prefer, the easier your workforce transitions will be.
Revise Your Thinking on System Reliability
Workers who come into the office in the dead of night to fix critical systems that have crashed are rightly considered MVPs. But what if machines rarely failed to begin with? How much more productive could your company be? Consider adopting platforms that automate maintenance processes. This leads to more efficient asset management, freed-up maintenance resources, and less reliance on IT gurus to avert crises.
Let The 80/20 Rule Work for You
At any given time, about 80 percent of a company’s assets are consistently healthy, while about 20 percent need the closest maintenance. Advanced screening tools can help you nail down high-maintenance assets, and diagnostic tools such as condition monitoring can help you identify problems more quickly. Both measures leave you less dependent on esoteric tribal knowledge.
Transfer Knowledge via Video
At the same time you commit to documenting processes, get used to the idea that housing them in binders isn’t the way to go. Older workers don’t like writing instructions any more than younger workers like reading them. Try using videos to share knowledge. They don’t have to be anything fancy; make them consumable and straightforward, and share them with only those who need to know.
Create Ways Multigenerational Workers can Learn From Each Other
At many companies, older and younger workers may have some mutual resentment. Older workers may fear change, and younger workers think “the old guard” is derailing their career paths. Figure out ways to offer incentives to both camps for sharing and learning their knowledge and experience.
Cultivate Young Leadership to Drive Change
Workplace leaders can come from all generations, but members of Generation X are uniquely positioned to succeed. Gen Xers get the need for smart technology, but they also respect and value experience and tribal knowledge.
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