The ageing worker population: 3 ways to efficiently transfer“know-how” to the next generation

two worker men

The ageing worker population: 3 ways to efficiently transfer“know-how” to the next generation

The number of Americans aged 65 and older will double in the next twenty years, reaching over 80 million by the year 2040. The Silver Tsunami (as what this movement of the median age of the population to those “boomers” over 65 years old) continues to rage across the world, and more people are retiring, taking their life’s experience, education, and know-how with them and leaving the younger generation with an inability to effectively take over the workforce.

Not only are workplaces forced to go through multiple recruitment and training processes each time an ageing worker leaves, but there’s also a sudden lack of control over how the knowledge of these workers will transfer to the rest of the office.

It’s reported that the cost of losing a subject matter expert is 20 times higher than recruiting and training someone new through the typical processes. To top it off, according to Harvard Business Review, only 29% of new hires have all the skills required to meet the needs of their role — most will be forced to acquire multiple new skills while on the job. This increases the importance of maintaining talent for the long term and providing new hires, and the younger working generations, with access to the knowledge they need.

When an employee leaves their job, especially one considered to be a subject matter expert in their role, they can actually take up to 70% of the company’s knowledge with them. Even when a training process has been put in place for a week or two before the employee leaves, there’s no way that up to 50 years of knowledge can be passed on in such a short amount of time. It can cost a company quite a bit of money to replace that accumulation of talent if done improperly.

All the information that isn’t written down but stored in the minds of your employees is known as your tribal know-how. This can be good and bad. Good, because your employees have developed useful methods to maximize productivity and have continued to learn and store new processes and skills as they maintain their position(s) at your business. Bad, because when the employee leaves, so does that tribal know-how. Retaining all the tribal know-how when employees leave is key to maintaining the wisdom of your company and ensuring its future success.

So how can companies with ageing workers properly pass on their “know-how” before it follows their employees to retirement?

I listed hereunder 3 ways to efficiently transfer “know-how” to the next generation:

1. Create a strategized off-boarding process that taps and store the knowledge you need from leaving employees

Before your employees leave to take on the next stage of their lives, sit them down and properly obtain and store their advice, tips, and know-how by interviewing them based on questions that are open-ended and geared towards specific processes. You can ask simple questions such as “what five things would you tell the next person to take your role that you wish you had known when starting out?” or more specific, such as asking them to write down, or even videotaping them showing you, how to complete confusing and hard to learn tasks. Make sure you ask the right questions to tap their minds of knowledge. Store all the information you obtain in an easy-to-access database that employees can refer to when needed.

2. Create a work culture that supports the idea of teaching and learning

Before your employees pass on the torch to the next in line, start fostering a work culture that supports and promotes the idea of teaching and learning. Allow for those in entry-level positions to shadow their managers or those in other roles. Have specific days where roles record their daily tasks and work and compile them into an informative video or application. All in all, just supporting communication between everyone, asking questions and encouraging curiosity and learning opportunities/career enhancement. If your company can make skills transferable or overlap multiple positions, then it is less likely that your company’s knowledge will leave when one employee does.

3. Use digital tools like Taskimo TIPS to systematically capture and digitize tribal or scattered know-how to create a corporate wiki

Technology has upended how companies store their valuable information. Some of your ageing employees might also remember using library catalogues to store client info — and when all specific processes needed to be passed on in heavy manuals that no one ever really read. Thankfully, we’ve evolved substantially that we can literally store all the information we need in the cloud. There are so many digital tools that can be implemented to capture and store all of your tribal knowledge systematically.

When your field workers face a problem to find a solution or relevant guidance, they often lose valuable time to research among emails, large user guide documentation or scattered information sources. Besides, facing same problem, different people repeatedly lose similar time to reach the same information which results a multiplier effect on accumulated losses for the company.

Taskimo TIPS is a mobile knowledge base that your staff or customers refer to when a quick tip or guidance is needed for a standard operating procedure (SOP), a product, equipment or, service.

Taskimo TIPS mobile screens

On TIPS, you can manage your knowledge sources (tips) in any detail level and publish them for the use of your frontline workers. For example, you can create a Tip for each frequently occurring problem on an equipment and associate the Tip with:

> relevant page(s) or a large user guide document explaining the solution,

> a quick guidance video that you recorded to show how to exercise solution steps,

> technical documentation such as electrical schematic

As more of the ageing population leaves the workforce, we are going to be struck with the sudden realization that these amazing people were possibly worth more to our organization than we thought. Using the right strategies and technologies, as well as digital tools, the storage and transfer of knowledge can become just another simple and easy business process and you can ensure all of your tribal know-how is safe well into the future of your company.

Interested in learning more about how Taskimo TIPS corporate mobile wiki can immediately bridge the gap in knowledge to your new recruits? Reach out for a conversation with a member of Taskimo team today.

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