Businesses facing the challenge of knowledge drain tied to their aging workforce have good reason to be concerned.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics during the next decade there will be 54 million new job openings. Over half (61.6 percent) will arise from the need to replace workers who retire.
Who will fill these jobs?
According to a recent article published in the Harvard Business Review, three years after the recession officially ended, employers are still struggling to fill “middle-skills” jobs, or jobs that require on-the-job training.
Though “knowledge transfer” initiatives are not new, many employers are finding it harder than ever to cope with the magnitude of the challenge. No longer is it sufficient to simply train new employees to fill the roles their retired workers would leave behind. Today, many jobs now require advanced technical skills. Such knowledge is highly tacit, meaning it is locked within the employee. Simultaneously, the US college system’s capacity to nurture mid-level skills is in decline (Harvard Business Review).
So, how can employers cope?
Technology company Lockheed Martin has developed a mentoring program that pairs veteran employees with younger workers to pass on experience. Other firms such as Kaiser Permanente and Dow Chemical Corporation have followed suit. Mentoring programs that focus on solving the knowledge transfer challenges of corporations, empower a bi-directional relationship that transfers the necessary skills to the protege while bridging the significant generation gap that exists between Baby Boomers and Generation Y.
While we can’t hold baby boomers hostage in the workplace, we can take the necessary steps to teach their successors how to do their jobs.
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