With so many veteran engineers and technicians retiring, it’s worth the time to create a plan to transfer their knowledge to your new employees. Industrial distributors and manufacturers that provide value-add and engineering and design services are affected by this trend.
How Can Industrial Distributors Ensure Valuable Knowledge is Passed On?
Many businesses count on their employees to pass on institutional knowledge from one generation of employee to the next. Industrial distributors usually have senior employees teach the newer workforce members the details of the job. However, this practice may include the transfer of bad habits and inefficient operations.
Industrial distributors and manufacturers should have have a process in place to train new employees and the sooner, the better. Especially since today's workers replacing these veterans are not averse to job-hopping.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average job tenure in the U.S. as of 2018 is 4.2 years, but it’s significantly less than that for the 25 - 34 year age group: 2.8 years. Plus, demographic trends ensure we will see a growing number of millennials in the workforce. The BLS projects that millennials will represent 75% of the U.S. workforce by 2025.
The best way to preserve your company’s institutional knowledge is to document your operational and maintenance processes to ensure a seamless transition in times of worker turnover.
Industrial Distributors Can Transfer Knowledge Through Documentation, Mentorship & Job-Sharing Programs
A good article by Andrew Peña in Workforce , When Knowledge Left the Building, suggests that a way to address the risk of losing knowledge as a result of boomer retirements is to exercise a workforce assessment, documenting and identifying critical knowledge held by existing employees.
Some successful organizations have enlisted the assistance of existing and departing retirees to serve as mentors instead of simply showing them the way out the door. These retention methods have proven to be successful in curtailing the loss of institutional knowledge and transferring it to younger generations. Specialized training, documentation of processes, and job-sharing are a few of the ways to combat the loss of veteran employees.
Patrick Ibarra of The Mejorando Group has an excellent article on how to prevent years of accumulated wisdom from disappearing once the employee(s) retires or moves on, titled Knowledge Management: Transfer it Before It's Too Late!
Ibarra suggests various types of knowledge retention strategies that can be utilized so critical knowledge does not “walk out the door.” He states that the goal of the knowledge retention process is to preserve knowledge assets, enabling your company to:
- Minimize the risk and cost of lost knowledge
- Increase the speed to competence of individuals assuming new responsibilities
- Build internal bench strength, thereby increasing employee retention
- Create knowledge and skill repositories that support creative job and learning design
- Lower training costs through re-purposing assets across various employee groups
How Manufacturers and Industrial Distributors Can Document Institutional Knowlege
The WIKA article suggests creating a living document to protect your company's institutional knowledge. Ron Ashkenas, in his article for Forbes, Three Ways to Preserve Institutional Knowledge, suggests using technology to create a process by which your team continually captures and curates institutional knowledge — to make it a living and evolving body of useful information that is accessible to people as they come into the organization.
Utilizing an internal wiki – a collaborative website – is helpful in this endeavor. Wiki software has now entered the workplace, with companies like Atlassian, MindTouch, HelpieWP and TeamPage offering business-friendly versions. (This does not constitute an endorsement of these products.)
Utilize Programs Industry Associations Offer to Train New Employees
Has your company has already lost veteran employees and you don't have a source of institutional knowledge to pass on? Do you want to ensure that your new employees are trained correctly in the latest methodologies? Utlizing training programs offered by trade associations is a great way to train employees new to the industry.
Listed are just some of our recommended resources for manufacturers and industrial distributors in the fluid power, automation, and the electrical, motion and flow control industries:
FPDA University - FPDA Members have access to technical training and assessment testing in fluid power
The Fabricators & Manufacturers Assocation - FMA has training in a variety of methods to suit your company's preferences and challenges
Hydraulic Institute - Training & Certification programs for the pump user community
International Fluid Power Society - IFPS Certification and Educational Resources for Hydraulics, Pneumatic and Electronic Control Professionals
International Society of Automation - ISA Training & Cerification plus numerous educational resources for members
NAHAD Hose Safety Institute - Instruction and Certification on Hose Assembly Fabrication Processes
University of Innovative Distribution - Sessions and certification focused on the wholesale distribution industry
However you decide to go about it - now is the time to ensure that the years of knowledge stay within your organization as your employees retire or move on.
Tribute, Inc. is a provider of business management ERP software for hydraulic, pneumatic, process control and automation distributors who provide design and fabrication services.