Baby Boomers in the Workplace: Ensuring Knowledge Transfer
Baby boomers in the workplace can create a brain trust and enhance their legacy. The workforce is aging; however, they are also desirous of staying employed longer for several reasons, with many motivating factors. Many senior workers are motivated by their need to experience respect in their working environments and by a desire for self-actualization. Senior workers want to do work that interests them, has meaning, and creates a feeling of usefulness and contribution. Job satisfaction is also of significant importance to the senior worker, as it is of intrinsic value to them to enjoy what they do and to know that their efforts are valued and appreciated by their employers.
Techniques that employers can use to address the needs of senior workers, keep these individuals motivated, and also ensure effective knowledge retention and transfer from these employees:
Employers can address the needs of senior workers in a plethora of ways, which include ensuring that there is a work/life balance, so that there is time for a private life. Thus, flexible work hours, including part time and temporary work will assist in ensuring that the valuable knowledge that senior workers have is captured for transfer to succeeding generations of workers. The majority of senior workers have not been asked in the past to create their own self-development plans and therefore employers should be mindful to provide initiatives that assist in further skills-development for this population. A coaching leadership style of management would be most appropriate for senior workers as the best approach to ensuring continued development of their skills.
Knowledge transfer seeks to organize, create, capture or distribute knowledge and ensure its availability for future users. It has complexities because knowledge resides in employees, work tools, tasks, and people networks and due to the tacit nature of knowledge it is not easily articulated without the show-how to accompany the say-how. Knowledge transfer from senior workers to the younger workforce is vitally important for organizational success. The older workers will eventually retire, creating the need for a plan to implement knowledge transfer. This can be achieved by using guidelines that are in essence critical success factors and are a part of the larger activity of knowledge management.
The critical success factors have four pillars:
A coaching leadership style for senior workers is strongly suggested; one in which the manager/employer encourages career planning that reflects on past work successes and plans for future achievements. This increases enthusiasm for senior workers and actively engages them in the process of their work futures, which thereby increases job satisfaction and commitment to the organization. This commitment to the organization in turn benefits knowledge sharing.
An organization that creates a structure with roles and corresponding responsibilities that supports an environment for the senior worker to share their experience and know-how with younger workers is actively involved in knowledge transfer activities. By giving senior workers responsibility for knowledge transfer this also increases their job satisfaction and need for respect and to feel valued by the organization.
Technology & Learning
For there to be progress made by the organization, technology is essential, but is not directly applicable to the knowledge transfer activities for senior workers. However, it is rather an important component that becomes the emphasis on the critical success factor of learning. An emphasis on learning and education ensures that senior workers experience continued learning and a desire to develop further, therefore an active approach is needed from managers to ensure that learning continues in areas of the senior workers’ interests. Attention to motivation, trust, rewards and establishing a culture that recognizes and respects the senior workers’ knowledge and know-how creates a greater likelihood of their having pride in their jobs. This translates into their willingness and enthusiasm to want to share their know-how with their contemporaries who are of subsequent generations.
Retirees plan to remain in the workforce longer than in the past due to several factors:
- An increased life expectancy
- Having children later in life
- Financial needs require ongoing income – lifestyle choices that require increased spending power
- Diminishing government-funded social services
- Work peers becoming their community and quasi-family
- The desire for social interaction, a sense of purpose/productivity and contribution
Ways in which an organization can best utilize this source of labor:
An organization would best utilize retirees as a source of labor by creating flexible hours and work opportunities that create continued knowledge transfer. The creation of training that is designed for the retirees’ needs would benefit organizations wanting to attract and retain them. For example, a “revolving door” or “rotation movement” would also be an incentive to retirees to remain in the workforce so that organizations may benefit from the utility of their knowledge and to aid in knowledge transfer.
A “revolving door” or “rotation movement” is similar to the military’s reserves, in that retirees are allowed and encouraged to reenter the workforce by a system that accommodates their leaving an organization with the possibly of returning at a later time and returning to take on special projects or to fill-in when there is a deficiency of staff and/or knowledge. The rotation movement can also be staged work, seasonal employment during busy periods, as well as ongoing part-time roles. This system allows for the flexible work arrangements that retirees are looking for and the social interaction that they desire!