Is your company losing expert knowledge and not finding adequate replacement talent through employee recruitment?
If there is a downside to a booming economic climate, it might be the challenge employers face as they attempt to fulfill their staffing needs. Two forces are simultaneously working together to seriously tighten up the labor market.
First is the ongoing and accelerating retirement of older workers who are taking with them expert knowledge, experience and difficult-to-replace skill sets. If you don’t see the magnitude of this problem, consider the fact that by 2020, it is estimated that one in four workers within the US workforce will be 55 or older according to Digital HR Tech. This site offer tons of stats, insights and other useful information about the aging workforce. This is quite useful to companies that are attempting to cope with an aging workforce and those who are seeking guidance related to this issue.
The second force staffing folks are dealing with is the ever-increasing competitiveness of the labor market. Well-heeled companies are able to offer higher salaries, more attractive working environments and better benefits than their poorer competitors.
Smaller, well-financed start-ups seem to enjoy the advantage of being able to rapidly respond to the ever-changing demands of the labor force more quickly and effectively than less-nimble, large and established companies.
There are several strategies to consider in response to these issues, and they are built around two obvious goals:
- Slow down the loss of expert knowledge.
- Increase the competitiveness of your company as an employer.
Let’s take a look at how these goals can be achieved.
Plug the Brain Drain: Older Workers Possess Expert Knowledge
Slowing down the loss of expert knowledge starts with an examination of perceptions about age, what it means to be “old” and what retirement looks like.
There are many misconceptions about age that simply do not stand up when examined in detail. In the same sense that not all 30-year-old workers are highly motivated and digitally literate, not all 65-year-old workers are feeble, forgetful and intolerant of change.
German automaker, Daimler, has a program in place that seeks to redefine misconceptions about age by looking at age from three perspectives:
- biological age, which is associated with the health and attitudes of the worker
- real age, which is chronological age
- life-experience age, which measures the diversity of experiential knowledge the person may possess.
The author of the piece about the program was measured as an example. That individual was chronologically 45 years old. Biologically, the author was found to be 36 years old, and from an experiential level, was pegged at 119.
The point of all this perception changing is to reconsider the whole notion of when retirement is appropriate and what retirement might look like.
As we live longer and longer, the percentage of our time on earth occurring after age 65, the traditional retirement age, is increasing. Despite this, companies continue to offer incentives to older workers to retire, even though they may well be in perfect health and possess all kinds of critical knowledge that is simply not replaceable.
Why not consider moving retirement age back several years to 68 or even 70 years real age? This would delay the loss of critical knowledge and offer more time to either train younger employees or to find replacements.
Other strategies involved would redefine the nature of retirement to include some ongoing association with the employer. The break would not be “clean” and sudden, rather a move to part-time status while also being able to activate retirement benefits.
These types of changes require more than simple policy modifications. Ageism is common in the workforce, and even older workers are guilty of questioning the value of older employees. The best way to initiate this is to facilitate communication and interaction between old and young employees.
This intergenerational communication is how people learn to value each other, instead of perceiving each other as a threat.
Increase Competitiveness as an Employer
How do you boost the attractiveness of your employment to perspective job seekers? There is more to this than simply boosting salary and fringe benefits.
Flexibility in terms of working hours, work-from-home options and offering help with personal issues are three places where many employers are finding value to offer prospective employees. Removing the strictures of the 8-to-5, office-bound job can make a huge difference to single parents or people with at-home issues such as spouses or other loved ones who require daily care.
Adding wellness programs and other quality-of-life-enhancing activities boosts morale and increases the health of all participants.
But the most valuable offering for most job seekers is training. The ability to pick up new skills and knowledge without having to go into debt to acquire training is huge.
Fortunately, the advent of AI and smart technology is making this more economical for many employers. Software applications frequently include computer-aided training modules that facilitate self-training by users.
Some products are designed specifically to speed the knowledge acquisition process and make workers more productive faster, without the need for extensive retraining.
Expert Knowledge is Built Into CPQ Technology
An example of how technology can help bridge the experience gap is configure-price-quote (CPQ) software. CPQ software incorporates expert knowledge into the system, itself. Product managers, engineers and sales and finance experts all participate in the creation of interactive interview scripts that remove the need for a highly trained sales rep within the communication loop during a buy cycle.
This is how technology can increase the usefulness of new hires, making them productive within days rather than weeks or months.
For the worker, the use of these products offers ongoing daily training that facilitates the transfer of expert knowledge to the user.
Preserving Expert Knowledge Makes Good Business Sense
Most companies acknowledge their employees as their most valuable asset. Investing in that asset to extend and enhance the value of older employees and to deliver great value sooner to younger employees only makes sense.
Companies that are able to preserve their knowledge base and simultaneously attract the best talent will surely prevail in the marketplace.