One of my favorite statistics at the moment relates to the impending loss of corporate memory and knowledge capital resulting from our aging demography – here it is:
On January 1, 2011, the first of the baby boomers turned 65. 10,000 more will do so, per day, for the next 20 years, in the USA and 62,000 around the world.
It’s one of those ‘OMG’ stats that brings home the very real effect of the brain drain that is now evolving day by day as the boomer generation (1946-1964) retires from the workforce.
Certainly the GFC and costly lifestyles have been, and still are, keeping the boomers at work longer than we (and they) anticipated. But that extension is short term, and the relief provided creates a false sense of security that the war for talent and critical skills is not really that fierce. It will be.
Transferring knowledge across the ‘demographic gap’ is a challenge for all organizations. How do you stop the knowledge and experience accrued in the heads of baby boomers walking out the door when they do? Studies show that even the active development of leadership competencies is insufficient to replace the loss of corporate memory when long term senior leaders leave an organization.[i]
The answer lies in implementing proactive strategies that recognize both the importance and urgency of the knowledge transfer, as well as facilitating the transfer across the generations.
It is now clearly recognized that baby boomers and millennials have different work ethics, values and learning preferences. Effective strategies for these diverse audiences need to incorporate a variety of knowledge transfer methods, including training, mentoring, use of technology and multi-media, document repositories and story-telling[ii].
No one size fits, but a combination of approaches, purposefully and consistently implemented, is necessary to ‘bottle’ the learning invested in previous generations.
Knowledge retention will be a critical success factor for organizations in the next ten years. As such, it’s important to get your succession planning just right and to minimise the impact of losing valuable talent in your business. For this and much more, check out PageUp’s HR software options.
[i] Lahaie, D. (2005). The impact of corporate memory loss: What happens when a senior executive leaves? International Journal of Health Quality Assurance, 18(4).
[ii] Stevens, R.H. (2010). Managing Human Capital: How to Use Knowledge Management to Transfer Knowledge in Today’s Multi-Generational Workforce. International Business Research, 3(3), 77-83.