Boomers, Brain Drain and a Quote

I was quoted in an article entitled Older Workers: Once Trashed, Now Treasured, written by Bill Hendrick for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The article deals with the subject of older workers, primarily baby boomers, and the realization by many organizations that they are facing a brain drain as the boomers retire.

There are alot of human resources issues involved in the impending retirement of large amounts of baby boomers. (BTW, “baby boomers” is a US term for children born during the period following WWII through 1964. Other countries had baby booms at different times.) Some of these issues include: healthcare, retirement income, delivery of services, succession planning, and one of the biggest, loss of knowledge.

Many organizations are struggling with this impending loss and how to retain this “knowledge” within the organization. By the way, this knowledge is not just “how to do the job”, that is actually the easier knowledge to retain. The difficult knowledge to retain is the relationships these boomer workers have established with customers, suppliers and co-workers that enhance the selling, buying and problem-solving process on a daily basis.

There are a couple ways to do this that might work. One is a mentoring program. Teaming younger workers with older works. Problems may arise however because not all parties are good mentors or mentees. Younger workers may get impatient and cause discrimination problems. Older workers may feel threatened and feel like the company is trying to push them out too soon. So this process has to be set up correctly and ALOT of training needs to be done.

An approach to transfering “relationship knowledge” that I like is done by Harvey Mackay, author, speaker and company CEO. He uses something called the Mackay 66 , in which he provides a mechanism for tracking a great deal of information on customers. Things such as family information, likes and dislikes, favorite foods and sports, where they went to school, things you should and should not discuss and much more. This information is collected and logged over a period of time and retained by the company. This way if the person who was calling on this customer leaves all of that knowledge does not walk out the door with them. The next person can read that information and get a head start on retaining the relationship.

There are a number of approaches that can be used, you have to pick what fits best with the culture of your organization. But if you have not started working on this today you will soon find yourself between a rock and a hard place. Look at your organization and take stock of who may be retiring in the next 10 years. What and who do they know? Figure out a way you can get them to invest some of themselves in the future of the organization. Wally Bock, at Three Star Leadership, also blogged about this issue and had some suggestions, so check him out as well.

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