Closing the Tribal Knowledge Gap to Address the Aging Workforce

In 2016, 36% of the Canadian workforce was over age 55. That’s over a third of employees within reach of ...

Closing the Tribal Knowledge Gap to Address the Aging Workforce

In 2016, 36% of the Canadian workforce was over age 55. That’s over a third of employees within reach of retirement. This number is expected to climb to 40% by 2026. What does this mean for employers? It means those lifelong employees, who have grown and developed the organization to where it stands today, will soon be walking out the door, taking those years of knowledge with them. This is what we refer to as “tribal knowledge”—the veteran knowledge one can only gain through years of experience. The question is, what are you doing about it? Organizations are scrambling to implement plans to capture and retain this all-important knowledge before it is lost and to transfer it to the new generations joining the workforce.

Not only is the shift in workforce age driving the need for documenting procedures in an easily transferable way, trends in employee retention are putting pressure on organizations to come up with an easily executable training plan for the constant wave of new employees they see due to higher turnover rates. Though the recent spotlight on Millennials as perpetual job hoppers lacks empirical evidence, young workers are definitely more open to explore career opportunities and are unwilling to settle if they are unhappy or their employer mistreats them in any way. Polls suggest that 40% of Baby Boomers stayed in their roles for more than 20 years, and 18% remained with the same employer for at least 30 years. Deloitte’s recent survey of the Millennial workforce shows 43% of respondents envision leaving their current role within 2 years, and only 28% see themselves remaining for more than five years. Forbes suggests this is not a representation of a generation but rather of the age of those currently occupying the generational group. This is further corroborated by Deloitte’s survey, which shows 61% of Gen Z respondents say they will leave their job within 2 years. To further emphasize this point, research was done comparing Millennials in 2016 to Gen Xers circa 2000, when they were the same age. The results? In 2016, 63.4% of Millennials remained in their roles for more than 13 months, compared to 59.9% of Gen Xers. The stats for those who stayed for over 5 years were also comparable: 22% for Millennials and 21.8% of Gen Xers. If employers can no longer rely on their employees to stick with them for decades, it is further proof that investing time and resources into finding a way to retain all operational knowledge within an organization is an important decision.

So, how do you do it? How do you move forward? Finding a process that is simple to execute and does not interrupt your organization’s productivity is important. One strategy is to use the buddy system: pair a veteran employee with a junior employee. The junior employee can shadow the veteran employee and document the veteran’s steps. Another option that is great for your business and the community is to enlist the help of cooperative education students or interns who are eager to learn as much as possible. Having them move from workstation to workstation to develop a set of electronic work instructions will give them the opportunity to learn from a number of different people and allow you to accumulate all that tribal knowledge into a single fully searchable platform.

At the end of the day, there is no quick fix for the tribal knowledge gap. Inevitably, it will require an investment of time and money to prepare for the next stages in your organization’s life. The first step is to start thinking about it. Many organizations are adopting a “wait and see” strategy, but these are the very organizations that stand to lose much more than just their valued lifelong employees when the candles are blown out on the “Happy Retirement” cake.

To learn more about how Mr. Narrative can help close the tribal knowledge gap, request a demo with our team: https://www.invaware.com/products/mr-narrative/

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