Millennials are fussy, they need constant praise and tend to leave a job as soon as something doesn’t feel right to them.
Generation X is fiercely independent and doesn’t even question the status quo, they dismiss it altogether.
Baby Boomers are workaholics who, although of retiring age will just keep coming to work – and complaining about their younger peers and their relaxed work ethic.
Traditionalists are ‘lifers’ who distrust any quick career advancements or out of the blue success.
And then there is gen Z, the first fully digitally raised generation who, in spite of popular belief, craves face to face interaction and positive relationships.
4 Tips on how to facilitate knowledge transfer between generations
There is a lot of stereotyping in the lines above, some of it probably grounded in reality, but regardless of what generation employees belong to, it’s imperative that organizations find the best way to transfer the knowledge from the more experienced ones to the newcomers.
Put in place a mentoring program
Traditionalists and Baby Boomers need to know their organization values hard work, experience, and depth of knowledge. Even if they may have a comment or two about the newcomers and begin a few sentences with ‘back in the day’ or ‘when I started working” they will surely see the benefit of sharing some of their accumulated wisdom and experience.
That’s why mentorship programs are the best way to leverage all this in-house expertise and give older employees the chance to act as guides to new hires or employees who are part of leadership development schemes.
It’s important to be careful when the matches are made because if the right type of relationship develops there will be a world of positive results coming out of it for both parties – and ultimately for the business itself. Areas such as business acumen, savviness, and professional etiquette come with extended practice so it’s quite natural that Traditionalists and Baby Boomers will have some valuable things to share with their younger colleagues.
Develop a reverse mentoring program as well
The pairing mentor-mentee does by no means have to be one-sided. If the older generations know a lot about the business and how to navigate various scenarios, the younger employees can do a lot in educating the seasoned workforce about new technologies and emerging trends.
Read more: Discovering 3 new faces of mentoring
Baby Boomers and Traditionalists possess a plethora of knowledge to transfer down, but all too often feel intimidated by technology as a form of communication and as a mechanism of the above-mentioned knowledge transfer. Digital communication is very different from what they are used to.
However, if given the right incentives and paired up with mentees who are as willing to learn as they are to share their own knowledge it can be a very fruitful collaboration. Making sure that everyone is praised for their own strength and allowed to showcase them will lead to a high level of engagement both with the program and with the company.
Read more: Tips for training senior employees
Create a culture of teaching and learning
It’s impossible to ensure that all the knowledge can be kept in the company once senior employees retire. Even with the best mentorship and reverse mentoring programs in place, there will still be gaps.
However, there is something organizations can do to facilitate a lot of information and know-how to be communicated from the older generations to the new: build a learning culture.
A good start to a learning culture is assessing the company’s current situation, starting with something as simple as the physical layout of the workspaces. There should be room for people to congregate, talk, and share experiences. Even if the new generations are very good at online communication, they do crave face to face interaction so it’s paramount to logistically set that up.
Taking it one step further, it’s good to relax what ‘learning’ means within the organization and understand that a good chunk of it happens informally. One way to facilitate that is to ask employees who are willing to lead ‘lunch and learn’ type events.
Make learning online easy
If your company is running in the twenty-first century, it certainly has already tapped into the potential of e-learning. Its benefits are numerous and with younger generations belonging to the digital tribe, it’s compulsory to allow them to learn and grow in a way that is familiar to them.
However, simply uploading materials and sending out enrolling invites will not suffice. Apart from extensive courses and bite-size modules that should be available to everyone on as many devices as possible, there are other venues that can be used for facilitating knowledge transfer.
- podcasts and YouTube channels;
- chatrooms or forums focused by area of expertise;
- personal and professional websites or knowledge profiles.
Having a list of SMEs that could be contacted for information, answers and guidance is also a great way of closing the know-how gap.
Today’s workplace is very dynamic, with transformations occurring both internally and externally. Generations change and the differences between them are greater than ever before. However, this does not have to be a disadvantage, but rather an opportunity to get greater diversity and merge the old with the new in creative ways.
Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.