Today, employers face a higher turnover rate than ever before. Plus more senior-level employees are beginning to retire. About 10,000 Boomers will hit retirement age every day over the next 15 years, according to the Pew Research Center. As they retire, they take with them immense know-how and experience; the ‘intellectual property’ and company history that is often the competitive advantage for every company
As these long-standing employees leave, so does significant critical company intelligence. Veteran team members have a deeper understanding of company purpose, how to troubleshoot within business parameters and a fluent capability in what vital processes are needed to manage to success. They are confident in the face of obstacles because they’ve been there before. While new staff brings an important set of skills, determination and fresh energy, they lack the deep historical knowledge that assures client retention and your competitive advantage.
This shift is causing a multidimensional challenge to transfer critical business knowledge, institutional memory, and key information from its existing workforce to a new one. Companies need to capture the precedent and pass the baton to the next generation. The question is how?
Here are four keys to set up for a smoother handover.
1. Offer specialized training
Training programs like upskilling, are helpful for bringing less experienced members up to speed or reskilling them to fill expanded roles. Leverage experienced staff members to provide that training, giving them a platform to share their knowledge and experience.
2. Create a knowledge library & document processes
Capture as much as you can in a knowledge library. Presentations, videos, and guides can preserve institutional memory while confirming successful standard operating procedures, key contacts, and other business essentials. Exposure to the documents and processes should be included as a component of onboarding and company training, helping transmit company culture, identity and shared history and values.
Veteran staff can be matched with the “next gen” team members in a company-wide mentorship program. Mentors help provide guidance and training to support company goals, ease transitions and coach team members during challenges. This is an excellent way to retain institutional knowledge, keep up the successful base, and develop up-and-coming leaders.
4. Staggering retirement and job sharing
While complicated, staggering retirement could ease the burden on companies when top people retire. Leaving slowly makes the transition smoother and allows for the replacement staff to troubleshoot and consult with the departing members. A gradual phase-out lets the retiring members hand over tasks responsibilities while they are still present on the payroll.
Job sharing accomplishes a similar goal – it allows for multiple team members to cover the role while the company finds a replacement or long-term solution for filling gaps. Keeping the seasoned members on staff, even as a consultant on a part-time basis, weaves in consistency and allows the team to keep contact with the institutional memory of the most senior people.
While it might be sad to see the pioneers go, there are two upsides to this. First, we give new employees the opportunity to innovate, maybe come up with ideas or systems for their work. With the changing workplace comes the opportunity for a new culture to evolve and for technology to encourage best practices and professional development. They get to garner the experience and mastery of the pros and add to it with their fresh perspective and enthusiasm
Additionally, by preparing and setting up knowledge transmission, companies retroactively build a stronger foundation. They prioritize training, they use mentorship to build culture, they invest in their teams and preserve best practices. This shows commitment and willingness to evolve and adapt to a changing business environment.