Passing On the Knowledge From Retiring Employees:
An approach for age-appropriate personnel policy
Setting up intergenerational teams is one of the most successful approaches of an age-appropriate personnel policy. The essential feature of this approach is the mixing of a workforce with young and older employees focussing on transferring the technical and organizational experience-based knowledge.
In general, the goal is to keep the knowledge and experience of elder employees inside the company and to transfer it to the younger staff members. On the one hand, such a transfer of knowledge could be used for a new position, and on the other hand also to improve a project team by one or two new members for example. It is of importance that all related persons of a team or group are informed and aware of the goals and the process. Besides this, all personal demands and expectations should be transparent to each other.
Referring an exchange and transfer of experience-based knowledge, it could be problematic if elder and well-regarded employees are not willing to share their know-how with younger team members.
They might assume that they should share their well-achieved knowledge and train a successor only for being fired to make place for a younger and cheaper employee. Still, it is a fear of losing the job after having the know-how transferred.
If such a situation occurs, the responsible personnel trainers have to over-sensitize and explain the common goal. Especially in small and mid-size companies this situation arises very often. These companies do not have many elder experts that could share their knowledge and competence with a new team member or their successor.
To be able to handle such circumstances, it is necessary that the companies inform their employees that the exchange of formal and informal experience-based knowledge will lead to a win-win situation for both sides and that it is not an exploitation of elder employees to free their workplace.
A so-called know-how tandem should have the following characteristics:
- The age difference should be fifteen years between the elder and the younger employee
- The duration of working together is between six months and two years
- The costs should be in realistic relation to the economic advantage
- It is not compulsively a disciplinary relation
- Allow the younger employee to “escape” from the tandem after a certain duration into the expected position
This approach could contain the transfer of knowledge, corporate learning, as well as the preparation for new career opportunities. The mutual support and learning from each other is the main point of this approach. Compared to a classic seminar or training, the related employees have more time to build up confidence, to get to know the experience of the other generation, and to appreciate and adopt them.
At MOBA, we had and have these kinds of tandems running even though they are not recognized as such ones. It is not always an easy way to get together and it takes a lot of patience for each side (elder and younger) to get a moderate status for having knowledge transferred. No day is as the day before and the personal circumstances and private life will also have influence on the agreed goal. There is also an end date for such tandems and the one has to leave and the other has to jump in at the deep end.
“You can’t manage knowledge. Knowledge is between two ears, and only between two ears.”