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Knowledge Management Strategies for Aging Workforces

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Knowledge Management Strategies for Aging Workforces

Apr 29, 2024   |  By
KMI Guest Blogger Amanda Winstead

Effective knowledge management is all about ensuring that your employees have the skills, education, data, and know-how to be successful. However, many aging employees find that the skills and insights that served them well 30 years ago no longer apply. Rather than reducing aging employees’ workload, invest in knowledge management strategies that improve skill transfer and put folks in positions to succeed. This can make a world of difference for folks who have the experience necessary to excel but need to tweak their approach to work.

Investing in knowledge management for more experienced employees can generate interesting insights and help your firm make the most of older staff members. This can improve your operational agility, increase employee retention, and enhance your knowledge management strategies.

Reverse Mentorship

Reverse mentorship is a potentially powerful form of knowledge management that encourages younger hires to re-train their more experienced peers. Effective reverse mentoring gives older employees a chance to learn from recent graduates. This improves their knowledge base and helps older employees recognize shortcomings in their skills or education. Reverse mentoring can help break down barriers between management and staff, too, as younger employees will have a chance to show off their expertise in front of folks who are higher up on the corporate ladder.

However, for reverse mentorship to work, you need to create a productive, positive environment for all participants. This is crucial, as more experienced employees may naturally resent being “mentored” by younger peers, and younger employees may be too nervous to effectively mentor someone who has been in the business for decades.

Jim Berry, director of the MBA program at University College London, explains that effective reverse mentoring “should be a two-way street” in which folks feel free to share their concerns and questions. Respect is a must when reverse mentoring and oversights should be in place to ensure that coworkers treat each other with the dignity that they deserve. This, Berry explains, can develop “intergenerational awareness,” that alleviates the stress that stereotypes may cause.

Continued Learning

Continuous learning opportunities are crucial for aging teams. Without regular investment in education and training, your employees are almost certain to fall behind the curve and lose their competitive edge. Continued learning opportunities improve retention and help folks feel valued at work. Additional benefits of continued learning include:

●      Increased Innovation: Older employees have a wealth of experience to draw from. However, many still rely on outdated data points and skills that undermine their ability to innovate. Continued learning opportunities can reverse this paradigm and empower employees to utilize the experience while working with up-to-date insights.

●      Adapting to Trends: All modern industries move quickly. Continuous learning can help folks adapt to trends and adapt their approach to work. This is particularly important if you work in a tech-driven industry and fear that your aging workforce is becoming tech-illiterate.

●      Drawing Talent: Drawing more experienced, older employees to your business can offer a real competitive advantage. You immediately gain reliable, knowledgeable staff and don’t have to spend as much time onboarding them. However, you do need to offer continuous learning opportunities if you want to appeal to experienced, highly talented employees.

Continuous learning opportunities can also help you stay up to date with compliance regulations and laws. This is key, as failing to comply with new laws due to poor knowledge management practices will result in hefty fines. 

Revising Organizational Systems

When was the last time you analyzed your knowledge management systems? Most businesses only revise their systems when forced to, and, as such, are unknowingly impeding their own progress. You can revise your organizational systems to better support an aging workforce by analyzing your:

●      Vision: What goals do you have for your KM strategy? Which principles will you follow to improve existing systems?

●      Content: Which pieces of “content” are most important? Do your onboarding materials need to be revised? Are you going to shift the way you talk about your workflow management systems? Can you make it easier to access content?

●      People: Who will be impacted by changes to your KM strategy and how will they benefit? Will more experienced employees feel empowered by changes, or may they resent the changes you make?

●      Technology: Will you use new apps and software to revise your KM strategy? If so, what steps will you take to ensure that all employees, regardless of age, are able to access and effectively utilize unfamiliar systems?

Answering these questions will help you revise your organizational KM systems with older employees in mind. This is crucial, as more experienced employees may resist change if they are comfortable with existing operations. Accounting for the needs and motivations of aging employees will help you make cultural changes that break down KM barriers and raise the standard at your place of work.

You can also shift the way you tag and label knowledge to help folks find the information that you need. For example, you may want to consider adopting people-centric labeling while changing the way you store company data. People-centric labeling is accessible, inclusive, and encourages employees to engage in the changes you make. This ensures that aging employees feel appreciated and will help them adopt the changes that you make together.

Conclusion

Revising your approach to knowledge management can empower aging workforces and improve productivity at your place of work. Utilizing techniques like reverse mentoring can help younger team members share their insights and learn more about the wider goals and vision of the company. This creates a work environment that is conducive to continuous learning and puts older employees in a position to succeed.


Amanda Winstead is a writer from the Northwest US area with a background in communications and a passion for telling stories. She has been following Knowledge Management for several years and it's one of her favorite topics to explore.  Along with writing she enjoys traveling, reading, working out, and going to concerts.

If you want to follow her writing journey, or even just say hi you can find her on Twitter or LinkedIn or check out her portfolio.

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