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Knowledge Transfer

While mature workers regularly leverage their knowledge on the job, there comes a point where they must pass it on to other workers. The Conference Board research examines capturing and extending the mature worker’s expertise through mentoring programs, knowledge transfer, participation in a multigenerational workforce, and innovative phased retirement.

Bridging the Gaps: How to Transfer Knowledge in Today’s Multigenerational Workplace shows companies how to effectively share expertise across their workforces while avoiding ageism. It is designed to help them understand generational learning styles and preferences, and choose the best transfer methods. The report distinguishes transfer methods by user need, context, type of knowledge, level of experience, as well as identifies the approaches that best suit each need category. It also points out three key incentives for knowledge transfer and the prerequisites for making that transfer happen.

In addition, it offers concrete examples of how strategies have been used by a variety of employers, from engineering and construction to utilities. A research working group member from Northeast Utilities explains the company’s knowledge transfer plan, and shows how it supports the organization’s five-year plan for talent and leadership development. Northeast Utilities’ commitment to capturing and transferring knowledge is as important as maintaining its electricity and gas networks.

Bridging the Gaps also describes programs at Black and Veatch and American Express for building knowledge transfer into phased retirement. Doing this through job redesign or formal transfer allows mature workers to stay with the firm as they unbundle responsibilities and helps companies rationalize succession planning.

The research on knowledge transfer also suggests high potential for emerging practices, such as "reverse mentoring"—when a younger employee teaches new technology to an older worker. This practice brings reciprocity into knowledge sharing and generates cross-generational trust.

The Mature Workforce Initiative also includes a wealth of resources in Bridging the Gaps: How to Transfer Knowledge in Today’s Multigenerational Workplace. Developed as part of The Conference Board Multigenerational Knowledge Transfer Research Working Group, this report provides strategies for disseminating expertise from older to younger workers and across like generations; solutions that use technology, such as blogs and instant messaging; and best practices for off-line interviews and informational events to share knowledge in ways that will be accepted and applied by younger generations.Bridging the Gaps: How to Transfer Knowledge in Today’s Multigenerational Workplace

Report credit: Diane Piktialis and Kent Greenes, Bridging the Gaps: How to Transfer Knowledge in Today’s Multigenerational Workplace, The Conference Board, Research Report 1428, 2008, p. 23.


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