An estimated 10,000 people reach retirement age in the U.S. every day. Meanwhile, Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2012) is entering the working world and is expected to make up 27% of the workforce by 2025.
As long-tenured employees prepare to retire, how do you make sure their valuable knowledge stays with future generations of employees? And as young employees join the workforce, how do you ensure they have access to the knowledge they need to grow in their careers?
Below, we take a look at four ways to improve knowledge capture and sharing across a multigenerational workforce.
Embrace Video for Knowledge Transfer
There are a lot of reasons to choose video as a knowledge transfer format. It’s often easier to show something visually than to describe it in words–and often less time-consuming to record a video than to put the same information in writing. It’s also how many employees prefer to consume information. In fact, for Gen Z employees, video is quickly becoming the default format for learning and sharing knowledge. About 40% of Zoomers start searching for information on TikTok and Instagram rather than Google.
Joe Carruth, Business Analyst at Medicaid services company Gainwell Technologies, noticed this preference when his organization hired a cohort of summer interns. “They love sharing knowledge and putting great content out,” he shared in a KMWorld webinar with Bloomfire’s Emma Galdo. “And one of our interns put out a video log about using OneNote. Very quickly we noticed based on the views, comments, and likes that it was number one on our leaderboard of engaging posts [in Bloomfire].” Joe also noted that after other employees saw the level of engagement this video received, more people began incorporating videos and visuals into their own content.
Want to learn more about how Gainwell is sharing knowledge across a multigenerational workforce? Watch the on-demand webinar.
If you want employees in your organization to start using video for knowledge transfer, make it as easy as possible for them to get started. Give employees access to a screen recording tool (and offer training sessions for those who may be unfamiliar with the technology) and stress that when it comes to internal knowledge sharing, it’s more important to clearly communicate their knowledge than to create a highly polished final video.
It’s also important to make it as easy as possible for employees to search for and browse videos. Encouraging video creators to keep their videos short and focused on a single topic can help with this. Additionally, if you have a knowledge management platform that automatically transcribes videos, employees will be able to jump to the specific points in videos where the keywords they’re interested in are spoken, allowing them to find the most relevant information fast.
Lower Tech Barriers for Sharing Knowledge
Technology changes fast, and it’s beneficial for a multigenerational workforce to keep up with the skills and tech that will help them succeed and grow in their roles. But employees often feel resistant to change, especially when they have grown used to using certain technologies or completing tasks in a certain way. The best way to get people to embrace change? Make that change as frictionless as possible.
In our KMWorld webinar, Joe Carruth explained that he and his team realized that there was a large cohort of employees who had worked at Gainwell their entire careers and amassed a lot of tribal knowledge. However, many of these employees were tech-averse and hadn’t preserved their knowledge in a format that could be shared with future employees, meaning that when they retired, their valuable knowledge would go with them.
Joe and his team overcame this challenge by rolling out a knowledge management platform that was easy for employees of all generations and tech skill levels to use. Employees can create content without any coding or manual metadata entry and find content without needing to know the exact title or tags used in a post, leading to an organization-wide increase in content creation and knowledge engagement. According to Joe, “Long-tenured employees can create content, share answers to questions, and ultimately document the years of knowledge they have without needing to be tech-savvy.”
Even when new knowledge management technology seems easy to use, it’s still helpful to host training sessions to get all employees familiar with the new system and give them a chance to ask questions. Record your training and post it in the knowledge management platform so that employees who missed the live training (or who just need a refresher) can watch it whenever they want. You might also consider creating short best practice guides (e.g. tips for searching, contributing content, etc.) and publishing them in your KM platform.
Identify Knowledge Gaps and Who Can Fill Them
Everyone has personal knowledge gaps, but there may be knowledge gaps across your organization as well. For example, maybe a team relies on one long-tenured team member to perform a certain task–and risks losing the knowledge of how to complete that task most effectively if that team member retires. Or maybe one team has access to an extensive library of market research that they use to help inform their decisions, while another team that could also benefit from that research has no idea it exists.
To find and assess your company’s knowledge gaps, you’ll need to catalog the knowledge assets that currently exist across your organization, where they live, who has access to them, and how they’re being shared (it’s helpful to form a knowledge audit team to tackle this). From there, you can start determining where there are knowledge gaps–and which subject matter experts can help you fill them by documenting what they know. If you discover that some of your long-tenured employees possess a wealth of knowledge that isn’t currently accessible to your younger or newer hires, make sure you prioritize getting this knowledge documented. (You may also discover that younger team members possess knowledge that is valuable to their longer-tenured peers–make sure they are documenting and sharing this knowledge as well!)
If your knowledge management platform includes built-in analytics, use them to help determine where there are knowledge gaps and prioritize new content creation. For example, Bloomfire’s analytics include a Zero Search Results report, which shows what search terms people are entering that are yielding no results in the platform. This can help you see what people are most interested in and what your subject matter experts should focus on documenting.
Link Knowledge Sharing to Business Goals and Impact
Generational expert Lindsey Pollak stated in her book, The Remix–How to Lead and Succeed in the Multigenerational Workplace, “The longer I study generations in the workplace, the more similarities I find in what people want out of work. Those fundamentals—meaning, purpose, good leaders, professional growth—don’t change. What changes is how each generation expresses these needs and what expectations we have about our employers’ fulfillment of them.”
In other words, employees from different generations might have different preferences in where they work, how they get work done, and how their achievements are recognized, but ultimately, everyone wants to feel that their work has meaning and that they are making forward progress.
Building an organization-wide culture of knowledge sharing can help employees see the impact their work and expertise has on the rest of the organization while also allowing them to make progress in their own roles. As a business leader, you can help people better understand this impact by linking knowledge sharing to business goals. For example, you might find that after improving your processes for documenting customer service knowledge, your customer service team reduces their average handle time. Or maybe your research and development team makes a product improvement based on a report your customer insights team shares. Be sure to recognize and reward these achievements so that everyone sees the value in sharing what they know with their peers.
Celebrate the people who are active in building your culture of knowledge sharing. For example, you might provide a shoutout in a company meeting to employees who have shared valuable content or provide a relevant reward or perk (e.g., extra time off in exchange for time saved for the company).
There’s No Time Like the Present for Knowledge Sharing
The knowledge of your company’s employees is its greatest strategic advantage, and having your multigenerational workforce document and share what they know can help drive greater collaboration, efficiency, and innovation. If your organization doesn’t have a system in place for capturing and preserving knowledge–or if knowledge is scattered and siloed across teams–it’s time to change that. Developing an organization-wide knowledge management strategy will have long-lasting benefits for both current and future generations of employees.