Knowledge sharing across the generations
By Caroline Samne
For the first time in the history of society we have up to 5 generations working together side by side. This is both an opportunity and a challenge for many organizations.
The opportunities lay in the rich exchanges that can occur between groups that bring very different values and principals to the work environment, which can generate dynamic and creative conversations. These very differences can also create barriers in how we communicate and exchange.
What can be an asset needs to be carefully nurtured and cultivated so as not to allow it to become a barrier to the communication and sharing of ideas.
As the boomers start to look to retirement the knowledge that they hold is especially critical to tap into and transfer before it is too late! Therefore, organizations must create an environment that facilitates dialogue and exchange amongst all the “generations” at work.
As boomers start to question their retirement and what that means to them they may feel a lot of anxiety and distress over the next stage of life. If this anxiety is not tended to they may not readily want to share their information and knowledge. Employers have a responsibility to help them reduce this stress, by helping them plan for life after retirement.
Before we can ask people to share and exchange knowledge an organizations needs to ensure that its culture will support the desired behaviour. Knowledge sharing is based on mutual respect, trust and an environment that “rewards” and sustains collaboration and not competition.
Knowledge is often the one thing that employees have total control over and will not easily let go of, if they feel that it will not be valued, respected or worse yet that if sharing it will make them dispensable.
What can an organization do to create a culture of sharing and exchange?
1) Get a clear image of your present day culture by undertaking an assessment
2) Assess how knowledge and information is presently shared, stored, accessed
3) Determine what strategy you need to put in place to create a strong knowledge sharing culture
4) Involve people in the process, the different generations have varying needs when it comes to how information is shared. The boomers seek more face to face interaction while Gen Y’s will seek digital mediums such as wikis, podcasts and other social medias.
In order to create a culture that is based on collaboration and sharing, people must also clearly understand the organization’s vision around the exchange of knowledge. Why is it critical for us to engage in knowledge sharing and what are the risks of not exchanging? An important question we must ask ourselves.