Depending on the statistical report they are reporting that over 40% of the existing workforce is eligible to retire within the next 5 years. Correct or incorrect the fundamental truth is that we are risk of losing a lot of tribal knowledge or are we?
If you are like me, you have tossed your encyclopedias and rarely look at a user manual. I am raving fan of "Professor" Google or "Doctor" You Tube which between the two of them the majority (98%) of my questions are answered. YEAH !!! Even my new vehicle although it came with an operators manual the onboard electronic manual is much easier too use and even has a search function ... again YEAH !!
So are we at risk of losing Tribal knowledge? Perhaps not as much as intelligent people and statisticians may want us to believe. People are proud of what unique things they are capable of and fortunately like nothing better than to create a memory on either Google or You Tube ... so when i am desperate for a solution i have been very fortunate to retrieve a solution through either portal whether it comes to fixing my Romba, reprogramming my Digital Condo or adjusting the clock for Day-Light savings time in my vehicle (the dumb vehicle, not the smart one with the electronic manual) ... so the more that get documented the less risk that we are being exposed to losing it ... the Tribal Knowledge I mean.
Technology is racing to obsolete Tribal Knowledge and specific skill sets. For example, pick up any trade journal and i guarantee that there will be an article about the current truck driver shortage ... but really? is there a shortage or we are just in a lag of technology acceptance? Autonomous driving vehicles are proving themselves and are slowly getting acceptance ... and once accepted and deployed -- POOF!! our driver shortage has disappeared. I truly feel this solution is within our grasp and not some sort of long-term vision we actually are capable to deploy today.
Remember when you had to spend hours perfecting your cursive writing or printing and all of those spelling bees ... GONE !!! no longer a required teaching since technology now provides with dynamic spell and grammar checking along with text to type ... but the power will be with those that continue to pursue this as an art form.
Hire a Robot not a Person ... we are reading about the massive resignations occurring post-Pandemic. But we are also reading about the inclusion of robots and advanced technologies being used in non-traditional spaces ... so it is just a matter of time before they become accepted and adopted into our mainstream of life.
People fulfill a Process and once we figure that out, scrub some of the Tribal knowledge seasoning indeed it can most likely be automated. I do however strongly suggest that you employ the 5S of automation ... which simply means show at least 5 significant simplification improvements to the target process before automation.
The nice part of hiring a Robot is that you no longer need to be concerned about creating that "Employee Experience" ... Robots don't care about breaks seldom need a washroom break and even don't normally complain about temperature or lighting ... they just want inputs in order to provide outputs ...
OOOPS ... forgot to mention, with all of that new technology we will need a new layer within our organizations ... those that look after the care, feeding and control of our advanced automation ... so perhaps our workforce pool is just shifting within our organization, and that Employee Experience become an even bigger deal.
Here are some other thoughts about capturing and preserving your percieved Tribal Knowledge :
Transfer knowledge the YouTube way
Yes, encouraging the documentation of processes is smart, but doing it via the written word … not so much. Older workers generally don’t like writing instructions (and don’t always get them right). And many younger workers don’t care to pore over pages and pages of steps. Try using videos to share knowledge via YouTube, which has pioneered showing people how to do things.
Leverage smart technology to capture intelligence By collecting data and applying machine learning or natural language processing to analyze it for patterns and conditions, technology is essentially pulling exclusive information out of someone’s head and making it visible to teams. If you have workers writing daily logs or providing voice recordings that recap activities, getting them to tag key information using their tribal knowledge can help machine learning synthesize the unstructured data and turn it into valuable insights. Your new generation of workers is expecting that technology be applied this way to pass down information.
Provide workplace technology that is faster and simpler
Management can learn from newer generations and their affinity for applications and tools that are easy to operate and accessible from anywhere. Products from companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have shaped their views on technology. Many, for example, prefer touchscreen functionality over knobs and dials. While it may be challenging to build the tools they will adopt, it’s time to start.
Encourage online problem solving
A long tradition exists of testing a job candidate’s tech knowledge and skills by not allowing them to access the internet for help. It’s time to rethink this. For young workers today, the internet is a go-to problem-solving tool.
Incentivize employees to learn from each other
At many companies, resentment runs both ways. Older workers may be annoyed at seeing younger counterparts move in with new ideas and ways of working. Younger workers may begrudge the older generation for sticking around and delaying their chances for leadership roles and promotions. It’s not one generation immediately displacing another — the demographic shift is gradual, and seasoned employees will still be around for a while.
Move away from break/fix to maintenance reliability
Today, the worker who got up at 3 a.m. to repair a machine is judged a hero. Maintenance teams that are always successfully troubleshooting problems are star performers. But what if machines rarely failed, and maintenance teams were free to attend to the needs of the whole operation, proactively? With computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platforms, processes can be automated and maintenance more predictive. This enables companies to more efficiently manage assets.