With more and more boomers retiring, they’re taking with them long-held beliefs, workstyles, and, in many cases, vast quantities of tribal knowledge. Losing the latter—that exclusive, often
technical, product or process information that is stored
inside someone’s head—is what will be most felt by the
companies they are departing.
It may be as simple as understanding when an eerie
sound emitted from a huge piece of expensive equipment
warrants maintenance or how to perform makeshift fixes of
key assets using tools, wires, and who knows what. It may be
a technician who long ago came up with an obscure software
workaround to enable old databases and servers to continue
to interoperate. No one else may ever figure out how to keep
this system running without an expensive new fix.
It’s in a company’s best interest to capture as much of
this intelligence as possible to ease the transition to a
newer, younger workforce—even if those workers don’t buy
in to the way things were previously done. Here are some
strategies to help:
1. TRANSFER KNOWLEDGE THE YOUTUBE WAY
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 You Tube, which has pioneered showing
people how to do things. For example, documenting how to
make sensors and software work together to provide asset
conditioning monitoring data can be much more effective
with a visual dimension. Your videos don’t have to be anything fancy (and don’t even have to go on You Tube). Make
them simple and consumable and share with only those
who need to know. Having a veteran maintenance tech wear
enterprise-connected smartglasses and record their work
is one easy way to do it.
2. LEVERAGE SMART TECHNOLOGY TO
By collecting data and applying machine learning or natu-
3. MOVE AWAY FROM BREAK/FIX TO
ral language processing to analyze it for patterns and condi-
tions, 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.
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 IIo T platforms, processes can be
automated and maintenance more predictive. This enables
companies to more efficiently manage assets, free up maintenance resources, and offset the loss of their longtime
4. 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 challeng-
ing to build the tools they will adopt, it’s time to start. This
new, “consumerized” or “democratized” technology may
lack decades of tribal knowledge, but it is here to stay.
And it’s best to make the change now while the both the
experienced workers with tribal knowledge and the younger
digital natives are all still in the plant to work together on
making the transition the right way.
5. 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. There’s much to be
gained by offering incentives for them to spend time together
sharing and learning. Get creative here. There are several
gamification companies out there ready and willing. It’s a
win-win and the knowledge transfer does help the company.
Oliver Sturrock is the CTO for Fluke Digital Systems.
For the full article, visit: NewEquipment.com/tribal-tips
The graying of the U.S. population means a surge in retirements in coming years. Here’s how to keep all that accrued
wisdom and experience in-house after they exit.