OK, so the silver tsunami has been less of a calamity than first thought. Those Baby Boomers are just refusing to retire, dagnabbit, spurred on by a lack of retirement savings or a desire to remain professionally active in some capacity. But hey – that’s sort of good news for your business.
Even though the lack of mass retirements means you get time to plan for the impact it will have on your workplace, it does mean a stilted transition and a sense of prolonged inevitability in your workforce. unless, of course, your Internal Communications team seizes the opportunity to mitigate the impending disaster.
Yes, disaster. The Boomer Brain Drain is headed your way, and without a knowledge transfer plan based around a central cloud repository, such as an intranet, it could have a serious impact on your day-to-day operations, and your future growth.
A Baby Boomer is a term used to describe people that were born between 1946 and 1964. During that time, the birth rate of the world's population, especially in developed nations, soared. The name “Baby Boomer" is derived from the boom in births during that period.
What will happen when Baby Boomers leave the workforce?
By the end of 2030 more than 75 million Baby Boomers will be retiring in the U.S. Mass retirement in developed nations will have an impact on the American and global economies. Besides the widespread effects on the economy, it’s clear that employers will need to prepare and come up with a plan for replacing existing employees and preparing a knowledge transfer process.
Have you started your knowledge transfer process?
Let’s start with a quick definition of what knowledge transfer means.
Knowledge transfer refers to a systematic strategy for capturing, storing, and sharing knowledge from one key person to another within an organization for maximum efficiency. Thereby it seeks to organize, capture and distribute knowledge within an organization and to ensure that its availability for the future.
Businesses are generally not prepared for the impact Baby Boomer retirements will have on their organization and the issues that will arise with their lost knowledge. Most organizations have done little to document or share the knowledge before they walk out the door, but when you consider that around 80% of S&P 500 companies have Boomer CEOs, it’s clear that business in general is approaching a knowledge crisis.
So what should you be transferring?
Think about things like:
How have your products or services developed over the years?
How have your top sales people scored their biggest wins?
How have your teams worked best in your organization?
How have your engineers fixed things?
How has the CEO got to the top?
6 Steps to Knowledge Transfer
Identify key people in your organization from whom you need to gather knowledge.
Prioritize the people and knowledge items.
Train people on knowledge transfer tools, such as process flow charts and mind maps.
Execute the transfer.
Store knowledge in an accessible location, such as a knowledge management system or shared drives.
Measure and evaluate the knowledge transferred.
Consider screencasts, webinars, even internal podcasts where your Boomers can share their stories and impart their knowledge, helping you to record it for the generations to come. And, of course, you’ll need a home for this knowledge, somewhere central like an intranet content management system that everyone in the business can access.
And while any knowledge transfer process you instigate to prepare for the Boomer Brain Drain will undoubtedly cater to Boomers’ preferred communication styles - that is, in person, face to face, or by phone - partnering the outgoing members of staff with up-and-comers can actually benefit both sides. Acting as mentors, Boomers can not only transfer organizational knowledge, but also interpersonal and social skills that their younger counterparts may be struggling with having grown up in a digital world. Intergenerational team collaboration can be facilitated by an intranet or Google collaboration tools, which make it simple to connect, share and store information.
These intergenerational relationships can open new ways of working, new learning opportunities and new ideas for both sides of the equation. The younger staff will become a more valuable asset to the company, while the retiring staff will be equipped with skills to take beyond retirement. In addition, the workplace culture becomes more inclusive, more dynamic, more flexible and more open to fresh thinking.
There will be a technology gap
So let’s move beyond the cliche of technophobe Boomer vs digitally-savvy Millennial here; there are plenty of senior workers who dive head-first into technology while there are youngsters who aren’t chained to their smartphone. This isn’t as much a generational thing as it is a business continuity thing. It’s crucial for your knowledge transfer process to instigate a technological solution that can be harnessed from wherever your employees are, at whatever time. What’s currently in the Boomer practice lead’s head must get into the cloud so that it can help answer any questions his colleagues may have in the future, on the road, at their desk or on the move.
An intranet: the best system for knowledge transfer
Building an intranet based around Google team collaboration tools helps you to harness the latest cloud-based technology and facilitate your knowledge transfer.
Create a Channel where team collaboration can help to tease information from the brain of your Boomers and into an always-on collaborative environment. Have your Boomers host Hangouts to impart their wisdom and experience, their success stories, their challenges and how they overcame them. Create videos showing everyday processes and workflows, then upload them to your Google Drive for posterity. Get them posting thoughts from a mobile app to ensure you capture the moment when it happens.
Doing all of this on a Google intranet means it’s powered by a powerful search mechanism that puts it all at your entire team’s fingertips whenever they need it.
The digital workplace is transforming the way companies work, but that doesn’t mean the old ways should be forgotten. Using an intranet software can help you to capture the knowledge of your soon-to-retire both as a way to document where you’ve come from, and as a way to ensure you can get to where you're going next.