FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Weathering the Coming Brain Drain

The first wave of Baby Boomers is scheduled to retire in 2011. This loss, combined with cutbacks in training, waves of downsizing, immigration restrictions, and the trend toward foreign workers being lured home, will put an enormous strain on organizations over the next decade.

Authors Dorothy Leonard and Walter Swap note that these most senior workers possess an invaluable asset, a thorough understanding of processes, technologies and the organization itself that they call "deep smarts." The knowledge they carry in their heads is every bit as valuable to an organization as any database. In many cases, these folks are undervalued... and organizations don't realize the impact of their loss until it's too late.

Leonard and Swap argue that business leaders need to tap and "re-create" these deep smarts before these folks retire. They urge organizations to establish mentoring programs that pair younger workers with older ones, managed by "knowledge coaches" who ensure that the younger worker is learning as much as possible. As expert and protege work together, they say, the younger worker will learn the expert's approaches to problem-solving that can't be conveyed by traditional training.

Organizations that have a lot of Baby Boomers as employees have about six years to implement knowledge transfer programs. After that, unless they can convince senior employees to defer retirement, organizations are on their own.

Source: CIO