The Aging Worker Population: 3 Ways to Efficiently Transfer “Know-How” to the Next Generation

An aged worker trains a younger worker in front of an equipment

Silver Tsunami

The number of Americans aged 65 and older will double over the next twenty years, reaching over 80 million by the year 2040. As the so-called “Silver Tsunami” continues to wash across the world, more people will retire, taking their life’s experience, education, and know-how with them. This will leave the younger generation in a precarious position, faced with a sudden loss of institutional knowledge and decades-earned expertise.

Not only are workplaces forced to go through multiple recruitment and training processes each time an ageing worker leaves, but they also lose the ability to dictate how the knowledge of these workers will transfer to the rest of their organization.

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 a Gartner survey, only 16% of new hires possess the needed skills for both their current role and the future — most will be forced to acquire multiple new skills while on the job. Organizations typically spend 33 hours training new hires, but with more workers starting out from a lower baseline, this figure is likely to grow much hire. 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 to perform.

When an employee leaves their job – particularly a subject matter expert – 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, it’s not possible for up to 50 years’ worth of knowledge to be passed on in such a short amount of time. It can cost a company significant resources to replace that accumulation of expertise if done improperly.

All the information that isn’t written down but stored in the minds of your employees can be considered your tribal know-how. This means of storing knowledge has both pros and cons. The pros: 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. The con: when the employee leaves, their knowledge goes with them. Retaining essential expertise when employees leave is key to maintaining the wisdom of your company and ensuring its future success.

3 efficient ways to transfer know-how to new generation

So how can companies with aging workers properly pass on their “know-how” before it follows their employees to retirement? Here are 3 ways to efficiently transfer “know-how” to the next generation:

1. Create a strategized off-boarding process that directly taps into (and stores) the knowledge you need from leaving employees.

Before your employees leave to start the next stage of their lives, sit them down and properly obtain their advice, tips, and know-how. This can be achieved through detailed interviews, using 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 film, how to complete confusing and difficult tasks. The key to this method is making sure that you ask the right questions. After you complete the interview, 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 employees record their daily tasks and compile them into an informative video or document. To support communication within the workplace, facilitate curiosity, promote learning opportunities, and encourage employees to ask questions. If your company can make skills transferable or overlap multiple positions, then it is less likely that your company’s most crucial knowledge will leave with a single employee.

3. Use digital tools like Taskimo 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 aging 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 since then, and 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 your tribal knowledge systematically.

When your field workers face a problem, they often lose valuable time searching for relevant guidance – trawling through emails, user guides or scattered information sources. If multiple employees are searching for the same information repeatedly, it creates a multiplier effect and leads to accumulated losses for the company.

Taskimo is a mobile form automation and digital instructions platform that allows its users to author and publish mobile knowledge bases, which can easily be accessed by staff or customers as needed. Whether someone is looking for a quick tip or needs to access the standard operating procedure (SOP) for a specific task, it’s all available on Taskimo in an easily searchable format.

With Taskimo, you can manage your knowledge sources at any detail level and publish them for the use of your frontline workers. For example, you can create a log of the most frequently occurring problems faced by workers while using a specific set of equipment, and provide users with:

– Relevant page(s) of a user guide explaining the solution.

– A quick guidance video that you recorded demonstrating the steps required to solve the problem.

– Technical documentation such as the electrical schematic.

As more of the ageing population leaves the workforce, organizations will be faced with the sudden realization that their accomplished workers were worth more than initially 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. You can ensure all your tribal know-how is safe well into the future of your company. Interested in learning more about how Taskimo can help you bridge the knowledge gap between your established staff and newer recruits? Reach out for a chat today with a member of the Tofnatech team.