Managing the baby boomer brain drain - what are you going to do?

Baby boomer brain drain loss is significant

The baby boomers have been retiring for some years now. Already some organisations have realised the negative impact this has in the workplace.

It is important to take action to ensure baby boomer knowledge and experience is successfully shared with others prior to their departure.

The effects of corporate memory loss (also called corporate knowledge loss) have been well documented over recent years. One major effect of staff member retrenchments during major corporate restructuring efforts was the loss of key knowledge and skills. Short term cost savings were often negated by the need to re-hire staff with the essential skills necessary for business survival.

The effects of knowledge loss in the workplace sometimes take some time to become obvious. Eventually people realise that past staff members "would have known what to do". Mistakes of the past are often repeated because of ignorance.

Baby boomer action required

Steps have to be taken to ensure that baby boomers share their knowledge and skills before they depart.

Clever organisations ensure important workplace processes and procedures are well documented. They also ensure that some history of why "we do things the way we do" are recorded. But often more is needed - documentation is not enough.

For baby boomers to be able to share, they need to have:

  • An understanding of what they know and the importance of that knowledge to the organisation.

  • The skills to pass on that existing skills and experience to others.

Both of these areas need to be developed.

Baby boomers need to be encouraged to actively identify the unique knowledge and skills they have. Organisations need to publically acknowledge the value such knowledge and skills can bring to the organisation. Managing baby boomers also means encouraging them to share. The right corporate environment needs to be created.

Once identified, a process to share this knowledge needs to be put in place. Both formal and informal mechanisms need to be established. Baby boomers need to be developed to train and coach others. The focus should be on discovering the hidden knowledge and skills that should be shared.

People like to feel that they have made a contribution to others. A good process will help baby boomers to successfully transition to retirement.

Every organisation will need to develop a management approach that is unique to the current situation.

However, most organisations will need to:

  • Develop an approach to identify key baby boomers and the people they need to share with.

  • Establish a corporate culture that supports knowledge and skill sharing.

  • Educate and train baby boomers in training, coaching and mentoring.

  • Educate and train younger staff members in how to positively work with baby boomers through this training, coaching and mentoring process.

  • Consolidate actions in an effective management/implementation plan.

To discuss your needs and the available options, in Australia,

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Further information is available at: Training Needs Analysis. Derek Stockley can organise an in-house, comprehensive TNA/trainer project, see In-house Training Needs Analysis Project.