Workplace Comparisons Part 2: Succession of Knowledge

In the previous post, I briefly compared each generation’s work attitude and outlook. This next post will look at how the succession of workplace knowledge may be lost with the exodus of the older generations.

In the workplace, all employees regardless of age want meaningful work, a respectful work climate and the ability to acquire and use skill sets.  In the last year, many employees nationwide have lost jobs due to downsizing and budget reductions. This has artificially created vacancies that would not have occurred this soon. The result is that workloads likely increased when positions were unfilled or frozen which ultimately may have placed employees in jobs they were not prepared to do. This phenomenon has created undue pressure on all employees and may even have increased the speed with which Baby Boomers are retiring.

If retirement of the Boomers was not enough of a problem, the potential loss of knowledge of how business is conducted can be a threat to workplaces. Large bodies of important knowledge may not be communicated when Traditionalists and Boomers do leave the workplace or retire for good. Millennials have been entering the workforce in large numbers at a similar rate and size as the Baby Boomer cohort that is exiting. Since Generation X only makes up 46 million potential workers, many jobs may be handed to much younger, much less-experienced Millennials. Younger Boomers and older X-ers will have to take up much needed slack as positions change, possibly losing the succession of knowledge that organizations have historically prepared for over time.

Organizations have to work much closer together to ensure that members of each generation have access to information. Including younger workers in all processes, decision-making and systems analysis with older workers can perhaps bridge this threat of loss of knowledge.

Sources: Nyce (2007); Lancaster and Stillman (2005).