Young adults and their grandparents have different types of knowledge; it’s just a fact. I may have to show my grandma how to use the key features of her new smartphone, but she’s the person I ask when I need to know who exactly to call to solve a problem. Since the majority of her phone experience has always been with making phone calls, she’s more of an expert in that department. I’m the one who knows about all of the apps and smartphone technology.
Neither skill set is necessarily more important than the other—that’s simply a matter of opinion, situation, and perspective. A mixture of our two knowledge bases is ideal so that we can each cover more ground, right? Well, the same applies in the workplace. Older generations have a lot of knowledge about things that the younger generations may not have learned, and younger generations have equally useful knowledge in different areas.
In order to teach everyone some skills that they’re lacking and that will be useful on the job, you should take advantage of generational knowledge transfer.
What is Generational Knowledge Transfer?
Simply put, it’s the knowledge that’s passed from generation to generation, like cooking. None of us would know how to cook food if we had never seen anyone cooking while we were growing up. Some things are learned just from being around so many people with a common knowledge, and some things have to be explicitly taught.
In the workplace, your multigenerational workforce has a lot to learn from one another. It’s a great idea to set them up in an environment of constant teaching and learning so that vital skills and ideas can be shared among everyone. Your safety culture is no different. Peer learning is a powerful tool, and you can help to improve safety in the workplace by making use of generational knowledge transfer.
One way this generational knowledge transfer can be accomplished is through classroom teaching methods. Once a month or once a week—whatever your team’s schedule allows for—arrange a short time for everyone to meet and learn about a specific topic from an experienced employee in that area. Remember to keep it short so that attention and productivity aren’t lost!
A mentoring style approach allows for a more personal interaction and a one-on-one learning environment. A lot can be learned this way when two or three employees are assigned to work together and learn new techniques and approaches to their jobs and to safety ideas. This environment opens more opportunities to ask questions and to experience a personally tailored learning session. Pair up employees who have similar jobs but different backgrounds, and watch the collaboration that occurs. Constructive, engaged employees will really thrive here.
The Effects of Leadership Changes
When there is a change in leadership, whether on a lower level or at the top of the company, there are bound to be changes in the culture. Change is good when you make it so, so use it to your advantage. Find out what kinds of unique qualities your new leadership has brought to the table, and help your employees to grow based on that. If your management has changed from a baby boomer to a millennial, you might expect more technology use or an overhaul of an inefficient system. Again, use this to your advantage and teach everyone about the advantages and practical implications.
Generational knowledge transfer goes both ways. You can definitely teach old dogs new tricks in the workplace, especially if you have some great coaches along the way. Open up your workplace to learning on all levels, and watch your culture become more positive and more growth-centric.