General Dynamics’Elizabeth Bocchino and Beth Mitchell hosted an info session during the SWE 2017 conference that was very relevant to the times: How do you document and transfer knowledge between the generations of employees? With 10 to 25% to the STEM workforce retiring in the next five years there is a need to save all the lessons learned and design experience from past and ongoing programs. Finding the right people to mentor and be mentored before this retirement window opens and closes has truly become the challenge. We can’t hire and train them fast enough which forces employers to become creative when protecting their IP.
The solution for the Missile Systems division was to implement Knowledge Management Plans as a response to curb their brain drain. New hires or mid career engineers were matched with the senior and pending retirees to set up a step by step map to transfer information. Every subject matter and lessons learned was captured in a document that was used to save the knowledge in a database, accessible to everyone in the company. Spanning six months, each pair would come up with ways to pass on the information and test that the knowledge was effectively shared and retained. Plans are audited and enhanced, as required, to capture all the information about the subject prior to the individual’s departure.
Note that at General Dynamics retirees cannot be on boarded as consultants for the military programs later on so it was crucial that the IP was protected and replicated before it was lost forever. If your company allows for contractual work or consulting, it’s not too late for KMPs! Bring back key employees and run them through a similar program. The cost is worth it. All we need is for retirees to open their heart and minds to mentoring, understanding that hoarding knowledge hurts more than helps the company that has employed them for so long. We need their support to ensure the continued success of the existing products and services they worked so hard to design and introduce into the mainstream. We are all eager to learn from the masters. Miyagi us as you see fit. We will wax on, wax off, for as long as it is necessary. 🤓
For tips to improve knowledge transfer check out this link.