5 Generations Mixer
Organizations throughout the world are now challenged to maintain business continuity by transferring knowledge from the older generations to the younger. According to some studies there will be 5 generations in the workforce all at the same time.
Gaps and Seems Less Seems…
There are a variety of reasons why people in the older generations have to work but more over there are fundamental business challenges due to this situation. Many organizations are having problems in estimating or planning for people to retire.
They are engaging older workers often too late for effective knowledge transfer. They may be unable to gauge what the real business value of a person relative to their functional capabilities are in a position. When companies or organizations focus on process and methods over people, they find that their bus-ability is literally walking out the door.
What is worse than this reality is that organizational transformation is not occurring as fast as needed to accommodate the younger generations.
Younger workers have a dramatically different view of work than older generations. This is directly impacting an organizations ability to build, maintain, grow and stabilize the workforce.
Don’t get me wrong, a lot of issues organizations have now in terms of workforce stability are things they bring on themselves by treating employees like expendable trash.
This is a narrative that really needs more attention. Organizations large and small aren’t going to necessarily go out of business because of knowledge transfer and knowledge management issues but it will cost them a lot of money. I can also think of some conditions where it can cause more serious concerns.
Gen X Reflection
When I was a child, I thought that once you have a job it was what you did for the rest of your life. I think that my generation was a witness to the end of a sort of this renaissance of labor. I watched my father work as a pharmacist my entire life which in turn meant that he would be a pharmacist for most of his life. He could tell you about the interactions between two or more drugs, foods or other things you consume in less time than a google search. He didn’t need google, he is still around today and I would venture to say that for his area of work, he still probably depends much more on his tacit knowledge over his need to search something out.
Knowledge is fluid and changes constantly but time of exposure to information and knowledge creates wisdom. Wisdom isn’t just about information and knowledge itself it is married up with the experience over time of a person and the conditions in which the person lives and has lived. All of the factors and facets of a person come together in a point of convergence in a split second to form that point in which a person chooses left or right, up or down, in or out, etc.
What is different today is that we know less and depend more on the explicit query.
The discovery of information from an inherently explicit source that positions us to make a decision. It is a decline in specific experience and wisdom. They are replacing the pharmacist with automation. Automation doesn’t and won’t pull out tacit information from a patient, only a human would. Click click .. medicine dispensed and the young pharmacist walks up to the machine and validates the label, the canister and the pills themselves. She takes the bottle and places in a paper bag and hands it to another young lady to ring the customer up. On the side of the bottle,it says “do not consume this medication with grapefruit” The young lady goes as far as telling the customer not to consume the medicine with grapefruit. What she doesn’t know is Mrs. Miller (the customer). She doesn’t know anything about her and she doesn’t know that Mrs. Miller was a Russian immigrant that doesn’t read english well or understand what she is saying. She doesn’t know that she is nodding her head in acknowledgment out of courtesy. No one taught the pharmacist or the young tech how to interact with the customer and how to question a customer. How to elicit important responses and how to dig for answers.
The computer does not convey that experience
and when SmallGreens let go of all their older workforce and had a workforce knowledge continuity practice, they didn’t capture this sort of information from the practicing pharmacists. They just captured the process and maybe things to look for but not the value or importance of caring about every customer individually and looking for ways to find out information that could save your customer’s life or prevent a serious mishap. My uncle who is also a pharmacist told me that some companies value the quick dollars of a flu shot over the overall practice of pharmacists. The reason why this is important is because a young inexperienced person might easily succumb to a corporate short-term win scenario where the experienced professional would follow corporate guidance but take a more balanced approach to short-term thinking.
I talk to Boomers all the time about their lives at work or their experiences including military experience. A great deal of the time they don’t even realize how much information they know and it is all wrapped in the narrative of their stories. As they are transitioning out of their jobs and they are asked probing questions the stories aren’t coming across. The questions can get to some of the areas but most of the time these sessions are 1.5 hours with some one to one or group mentorship later on. This isn’t enough. Some transfer will occur but there will be gaps that are significant. This could also be good depending on the job as someone might think of a new way to do the job better but unless the older way is known there is no way to measure. This unknown condition introduces risk and a lack of understanding of cost.
The other aspect of this is that some of our young people don’t want to be in one job for their lives and they want to walk into open heart surgery as the practicing surgeon after watching it a few times on you tube.
There is a sense that they lack the patience to learn and experience performing tasks and they are seemingly anxious to be recognized as subject matter experts. This is a pervasive problem that is systemic in our culture and society. It is something that we cannot avoid but we can’t afford to ignore.
I met an old warrior Green Beret this past week while on travel. He is a security specialist that looks at various concerns of physical, cyber, port and infrastructure security. He has 28 years of military service and a great deal of time on the ground in the commercial world as an expert. One thing that struck a chord in me was a story he told me about how a young security expert performed an assessment on a client site that took into account only the explicit information of information given to him about identified weaponry that would be a threat. It was as if this “dumb ass” didn’t know the physics of what happens when a weapon goes off or a bomb explodes.
I asked what happened after he read this assessment and he told me that he knew and reached out to one of the world experts on this subject to get this client squared away. You could say a lot about the young security expert in his defense but I would argue that his level of commitment, his heart, the nature of his honor and integrity and his tacit knowledge all come into play.
How many information technologists are out there that are called “system engineers” these people aren’t engineers, they don’t have engineering degrees or carry a card. They can’t engineer themselves out of paper box but they are called engineers and they gladly take on the title because it sounds glamorous.
As companies are now recognizing these concerns and looking for ways to deal with them, there must be an effort to be realistic and honest about the situation.
- They are also going to have to look at organizational governance to evaluate what changes need to be addressed.
- They are going to have to face the facts that any efforts in knowledge management, knowledge engineering, and talent management are tied to change management and operational resilience.
- They are also going to have to spend time thinking about the inside of their organizations as much as they spend thinking about the outside. The unspoken rules of labor don’t apply anymore.
- The last part of this is that organizations are going to really have to focus on people. Not pay lip service to how they care but really make clear and visible efforts to engage their workforce.
As a senior leader once said “If people don’t like what we do they will show us with their feet.”