I would like to thank you, the rest of my project team tasked with this issue for allowing me, one of your team members, to give you some perspectives and recommendations on this issue of cross-generational knowledge sharing.
Our company is currently facing an issue similar to that many US companies are facing: Baby Boomers (ages 45 and up) are not retiring. These more senior workers possess the specific domain knowledge that has allowed our company to remain a leading competitor in its diversified markets. At the same time, our company’s more junior employees (ages 19-44) have knowledge of cutting-edge information technologies that are unfamiliar to most senior employees. The challenge for us is to find ways for senior and junior knowledge workers to better share the insights that each group possesses.
Generation Y (ages 19 – 27), Generation X (ages 28 – 44), and Baby Boomers (ages 45 and up). This is why cross-generational knowledge transfer is imperative – when the Baby Boomers retire the knowledge they have about the products and processes for the organization will leave when they do. In order to have a seamless transition for the future, specific domain knowledge transfer must occur from the Baby Boomers (senior knowledge workers) to Generation Y and X (junior knowledge workers).Due to the current economic recession, the Baby Boomers cannot afford to retire because their retirement funds that were invested in the stock market have declined by 30 – 50%. Therefore Baby Boomers are staying in their roles longer than expected and not creating the necessary turnover for future leaders to take on more advanced roles. In addition, the Baby Boomers need to have technological knowledge that Generation X and Y possesses to do their jobs more effectively and to bring our company into the 21stcentury. Because this disparate workforce exists in the same space, it would be to our advantage to utilize both the senior knowledge workers’ skills and information and the junior knowledge workers’ skills and information to facilitate a two-way transfer so all TSP employees will possess all available information in the organization. Instead of viewing the Baby Boomer’s not retiring as a weakness, we should seize the opportunity to hang on to the Baby Boomers for awhile until their tacit knowledge can be transferred and recorded for future generations in the company.
Domain knowledge is difficult to convey and learn because much of it is tacit, which means that it is institutional knowledge that is not written down. It is strategic knowledge across multiple domains and much of it cannot be transferred through traditional methods, such as training classes. Domain knowledge, on the other hand, is the technical knowledge an employee gains from experience. Tacit knowledge is the collective wisdom of an organization of learned ways to do things on the job along with life experiences learned outside and inside the company and the sharing of experiences.However, not everything is lost when a 30 year veteran leaves an organization if there is a transfer of this domain knowledge.
New, technological knowledge refers to Web 2.0 tools and other new technologies that younger generations use regularly to communicate, transfer, and gain knowledge both at work and at home. It is very difficult to transfer domain knowledge, as it comes from a combination of many individual experiences as well as a person’s natural talent capabilities.
Senior leaders and executives should become role models for learning and sharing information, knowledge, and application. By modeling how to share knowledge with junior knowledge workers and allowing junior knowledge workers to share their knowledge with the executives, all employees will see how to interact and create their own partnerships.
There are six important steps that employers should take to manage generational difference and to create successful cross generational teams. If we build a team based on these six steps, we will find that the employees will be more successful working together.to consider the events that occurred during the teenage years of the different generations. By understanding what has shaped the mindset and reality of these different generations a greater understanding and appreciation for how each generation approaches work can be understood. to motivate and adapt to the needs of the different group. Each generation must work to incorporate the needs of the different generations into their projects to help ensure its success. to build and motivate a balanced team. Everyone on the team must be able to adapt to the diverse needs of the group and find what motivates the generations to work hard and work together. to pre-plan, train, and implement within the group. The goal of the group must be determined and communicated to all of the members and provide the necessary training needed to achieve and the goals and then coach for success. tomake it fun. An interesting learning experience where employees have the opportunity to grow and understand the perspective of other generations and grow to appreciate them will foster intergenerational teamwork. Frustration and conflict usually occur from a lack of understanding; it is important that employers and managers take the time to break down barriers and allow the different groups to learn more about one another in an interesting and enlightening way. to design a workplace that fits and meets the needs of all employees. It does not mean that everyone has to work at the same pace or in the same way, but it does mean that the workplace needs to foster a culture in which everyone can succeed.
Mentorship relationships are the best way to transfer tacit knowledge and create partnerships between senior and junior knowledge workers. In addition, organizations must transform their culture from “knowledge hoarding” to make the business a learning organization. Employees have a tendency to protect their competencies and skills and thus do not form partnerships The organization chart does not necessarily show where the knowledge is, because the technological knowledge sits at lower levels. Therefore the two-way knowledge transfer can only be facilitated through a true partnership between senior and junior employees. Thought leaders in the organization can demonstrate how to form these partnerships informally.
By having the junior knowledge workers spend time with senior knowledge workers, the junior employees will have additional opportunities to be able to show how they would use technology to complete a task or provide a new perspective by suggesting ways to solve a problem the manager currently has with technological resources the mentor may not know about. This will facilitate transfer of knowledge from the junior employee to the senior quickly and effectively since it is on the job and directly applicable to their work. For example,SHRM recently described Twitter coaches as the next “fabulous” addition to a company. Senior managers generally do not see the need for Twitter and therefore do not use the social networking site, but younger employees and the customers for the company’s products use Twitter. By allowing younger employees with this type of technological knowledge, the company does not need to hire a consultant for something that is already in the workforce. The junior knowledge workers can teach and guide the senior knowledge workers about this type of Web 2.0 tool to help the company increase its social media presence and stay current with customers and the market.
Shadow days let junior knowledge workers attend meetings, learn about the manager’s current projects, and be able to have their questions answered while building their network. This will facilitate the junior employees being able to get a feel for a “day in the life” and see the organization from a different perspective. They will learn from a more experienced and knowledgeable employee, and gain exposure to senior managers. The junior employees can gain first-hand knowledge of a role they may haveone day. Knowledge capture is best accomplished through storytelling and conversations. Question and answer sessions help a senior knowledge worker recall and apply knowledge he or she possesses. As we know, the majority of important knowledge in an organization is in someone’s head and the organization will be at a disadvantage by losing this information.Professional career coaches have outlined some key ways to conduct shadow days:Good preparation is the most important so the mentee is not sitting in the host’s office all day watching them work and not being involved. First, an email exchange to answer the mentee’s initial questions is best so the host is prepared for what the mentee wants to learn and see. The Shadow Day should be a conversation, not a presentation, so a dialogue can be created. In addition, it is important for hosts to bring the mentees to meet his or her colleagues so the mentees can get a broader look at the organization, people, and job.At the end of the shadow day, the mentor should give the mentee a recommended reading list for more information on the mentor’s job function. Most importantly after the shadow day the mentors and mentees should keep in contact through meetings and emails to strengthen the relationship and continue learning from each other through conversations.
Almost 70% of Fortune 500 companies offer formal mentoring programs in order to retain younger employees and show them ways to connect with senior managers, but many employees do not know that their company offers mentoring programs.AT&T and Cisco are often cited as having progressive shadow day opportunities. While these are mainly outreach programs for students, the design and implementation can be translated to the mentor-mentee relationship. IBM gives every employee a “connection coach” before their first day and after they have been in their role awhile they are assigned a formal mentor. At Xerox, younger employees are matched with higher-ups to learn about possibilities in the organization and learn from someone who has been in their function before. In addition, these companies realize that mentoring is a “two-way street,” especially in the current recession. Mentees are teaching their coaches how to utilize Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networking tools to help them do their jobs more efficiently. Mentees can take stock of the skills they have and match them to the mentor’s current projects and present these skills in a way that offers help. A short-staffed, smart manager will gladly welcome help on projects and this exchange enhances the mentor-mentee relationship and knowledge is gained by both parties.
Our company, like many organizations, is facing a transitional crisis. The fast paced, changing nature of the markets that we work in require that our employees know how to meet the needs of the customers. Furthermore, today’s economy requires employees to work across generations, across cultures, and have the domain and technical knowledge that has kept us a leader in our diverse markets. We need to develop a strategy that fits our current culture but allows the culture to evolve in a way that meets the changing needs of our customers.
Cross-Generational Knowledge Transfer
Cross-Generational Knowledge Transfer<br />Allison Gordon April 29, 2010 <br />
Issue<br />Baby Boomers are not retiring at the rates that were anticipated by companies. <br /> These more senior workerspossess the specific domain knowledgeof the company. <br /> The more junior employeeshave technological knowledgethat is unfamiliar to most senior employees. <br /> How can companies find ways for senior and junior knowledge workers to better share the insightsthat each group possesses?<br />
Employee Population<br />Mix of generations in the workplace: <br />Generations X, Y, and the Baby Boomers all working side by side<br />When the Baby Boomers retire, the knowledge they have about the products and processes for the organization will be lost<br />If managed correctly, the employee mix can be an advantage for the company <br />Each generation’s knowledge can be leveraged by another’s<br />
Domain Knowledge<br />Much of domain knowledge is tacit (undocumented) <br />Institutional knowledge that is not written down <br />It is strategic knowledge and much of it cannot be transferred through traditional methods, such as training classes<br />The collective wisdom of an organization<br />Learned ways to do things on the job <br />Life experiences learned outside and inside the company <br />The sharing of experiences with others<br />
Technological Knowledge<br />Individual experiencesand natural talent capabilities<br />Difficult to transfer<br />Web 2.0 tools and other new technologies <br />Younger generations communicate, transfer, and gain knowledge both at work and at home<br />Wikis, blogs, social media, IM<br />
How to Share Knowledge<br />Need to be “accountable for corporate effectiveness at acquiring, creating, sharing, and exploiting knowledge”<br />Performance is improved and additional knowledge is developed<br />Allow junior knowledge workers to share their knowledge with executives<br />Need the proper tools, software, applications, and support to allow employees to do their jobs well and achieve objectives<br />
Six Steps to Create Cross-Generational Teams<br />
Mentorship Program<br />Best way to transfer tacit knowledge and create partnerships between senior and junior knowledge workers<br />Two-way knowledge transfer can only be facilitated through a true partnership between senior and junior employees<br />Organizations must transform their culture from“knowledge hoarding” to make the business a learning organization<br />The organization chart does not necessarily show where the knowledge is<br />The technological knowledge sits at lower levels<br />
Reverse Mentoring<br />Key to efficient two-way knowledgetransfer <br />Junior employees can show how they would use technology to provide a new perspective by suggesting ways to solve a problem with technological resources the mentor may not know about<br />Twitter coaches are the next “fabulous” addition to a company<br />Younger employees with this type of technological knowledge are an asset since company does not need to hire a consultant for something that is already in the workforce<br />
Shadow Days<br />Key Ways to Conduct Shadow Days<br />Knowledge capture is best accomplished through storytelling, conversations, and question and answer sessions <br />
Case Studies<br />Almost 70% of Fortune 500 companies offer formal mentoring programs<br />AT&T and Cisco are often cited as having progressive shadow day opportunities<br />IBM gives every employee a “connection coach” before their first day<br />After they have been in their role for awhile, they are assigned a formal mentor <br />At Xerox, younger employees are matched with higher-ups to learn about possibilities in the organization and learn from someone who has been in their function before<br />Companies realize that mentoring is a two-way street, especially in the current recession<br />Mentees are teaching their coaches how to utilize Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networking tools to help them do their jobs more efficiently<br />
Takeaways<br />These strategies to share knowledge will create a more cohesive corporate culture<br />Today’s economy requires employees to work across generationsand have domain and technical knowledge<br />
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