In my first post on the boomer brain drain, I wrote about the enterprise search problem – all of the information locked up in Boomer brains walking out the door when they retire. It is a big problem, but what should companies do about it?
As the younger generation makes their way in their careers, it’s important to be open to different points of view. I spoke with my dad again after the first article was posted (A. To make sure he was ok with it and B. to see if he had anything to add.) As a generalization of the Boomer generation, I would say that they are very vocal about their opinions (of course they are, they grew up in the 60’s) and my dad isn’t any different. He appreciated the article, but wanted me to reverse the questions.
What he meant was instead of asking what he can do for me, what I can do for him. I’ll be honest here; I had no idea what he was talking about. I’m the kid that helped him link his computer to his printer and showed him how to back up his tablet. I grew up in the information age, where an answer to a question is a quick Google search away. Our generation has the keys to unlock all that the internet has to offer. We are the new information gate keepers. He couldn’t possibly understand.
Give versus Take
He made a simple statement that stopped me from my generation gap rant. He said, “That’s the problem with your generation, you never listen” in the dad tone reserved for unruly sons. Years of experience made me stay silent and wait for the follow up. “The fact that all the new guys think they know better is exactly why retirements could be a real problem for companies.”
“Remember when your car broke down and I offered to teach you how to fix it? You didn’t want my help. You spent hours looking for the best way to fix it on the internet and sent it to a shop in the end anyway. That cost you a lot of time and money, didn’t it?” He had a point; I spent almost an entire summer paying off the repairs. Companies face many of the same problems today, albeit in a different manner. A lot of time and money is wasted on finding or creating information that already exists in the enterprise – in the Boomers’ heads.
Give them a platform to speak
I’m not talking about a huge forum, but smaller working groups. My dad is more than willing to share if I just listen. It is our duty as the next generation to drop our tech savvy smugness and ask how from those that have done it before us. So the most important thing companies can do is offer a way to share knowledge. Modern companies should take a hard look at what works best for them. Each company is different and each employee will have different ideas about how they’d like to share. A recommendation from my dad would be a job shadow situation or even an apprenticeship. This would allow a trust to develop and allow information to be retained in the enterprise for future use. Any time you spend now will save a lot more time and money later, because you won’t have to relearn what you already know as an organization.