Institutional knowledge: Will unhappy Boomers take it with them?

by on March 1, 2010 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Cafe

Everybody knows it’s bad news when employees are seriously peeved. But one kind of damage done by employee dissatisfaction isn’t all that obvious.

The Conference Board, a business forecasting group, points out that the critical transfer of knowledge from experienced to neophyte employees suffers when the former are unhappy with their jobs and the organization.

Losing faith
That’s an important idea in light of the Board’s latest employee satisfaction survey. It shows that Baby Boomers – those experienced employees now in their late 40s through 60s – have grown much less satisfied over the past two decades.

In 1987, the Board reported, 60% of that generation said they were satisfied with their jobs. By 2009, that figure had sunk to 46% – a decline the Board called worrisome. The growing dissatisfaction “can directly impact the quality of multi-generational knowledge transfer – which is increasingly critical to effective workplace functioning,” the Conference Board said.

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Transferring institutional knowledge
Whether your Boomers are satisfied or otherwise, you might want to consider strategies for ensuring that they don’t spirit their knowledge away with them into retirement. You could:

  • Start or beef up a mentoring program. Even veteran employees who aren’t entirely happy may derive satisfaction from taking a younger person under their wing. (Don’t enlist true malcontents.)
  • Institute “pass it on” sessions – maybe over lunch – where veterans are encouraged to talk about insights they’ve gained over the years.


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