How to Prepare Your Organization for the Silver Tsunami

Silver Tsunami

In the last few years almost every workplace blog has focused heavily on Millennials. We hear and see articles regarding how to engage them, how to retain them, and how to foster their professional development. The focus has been so intense, that we rarely hear about an equally important phenomenon known as the Silver Tsunami.

When we do discuss generational groups like the Baby Boomers, it’s either to praise their strong work ethic, or to mock their apparent lack of technical knowledge, without stopping to consider the silver tsunami — the fast-approaching monumental shift in the workforce that will permanently change the way business is done around the world.

Baby Boomers will soon be leaving their jobs and taking with them all the knowledge they have acquired. And sadly, the majority of employers today simply do not have succession plans in place. Consequently, they might be putting their employees and their organizations at risk.

Predicting exactly when this tsunami will hit can be difficult, as many Baby Boomers stay on past retirement age. This is often due to financial difficulty, issues with their pension funds, or simply a desire to remain employed. Because of this, it is estimated that it might not be so much as a tsunami, but rather a series of many waves. The good news is that managing the departure of employees in intervals is much easier than dealing with a sudden massive exodus of employees over 60.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as many as one out of ten workers will retire either this year or the next. For those that are unprepared, losing 10% of your employees can hit a company incredibly hard.

The key to effectively managing the effects of the silver tsunami isn’t very complicated. It really comes down to retaining the knowledge of current employees, while ensuring your future workforce has the tools and resources to locate educational and relevant content.  

Understanding this Generation

Individuals born between 1946 and 1964 represented the largest generation to date in U.S. history. Typically defined by their purpose, their values include “high expectations” and “pushing hard” to reach goals and make changes in the world. Baby Boomers are known for their intense work ethic, and getting the job done. And as you may have noticed, this group views and values the work/life balance differently than the generations that followed. Whether we agree or not, this generation includes more work than life.

Regardless of the differences, Baby Boomers are a cumulation of years of experience in the workplace. Unlike gen x and millennials, boomers didn’t grow up with collaboration opportunities and technologies. And they were also less likely to switch jobs, which often makes the knowledge they’ve retained even more valuable.

However, just because Baby Boomers didn’t grow up with a variety of SaaS solutions for knowledge transfer doesn’t mean they don’t like to share. Baby Boomers are 19% more likely to share content on social media, compared to any other generation. (Digital Trends)

Baby Boomers are also well-connected through professional networks. Baby Boomers use LinkedIn late in their careers as often as entry-level workers do who are just starting out.  In fact, 13% of internet users who are 65 or older use LinkedIn. This is nearly the same rate as the 18-29 age group. (Post Control Marketing)

Leverage Technology

Sure, millennials are tech savvy, but so are older generations. If you doubt that, consider how many Baby Boomers rely on a smartphone, and actively engage with popular social networks like Facebook. According to a study by DMN3, 82.3% of Baby Boomers belong to at least one social media site.

Organizations can benefit from this by implementing mobile learning technology that appeals to all generations and mirrors the functions of intuitive and familiar apps. Modern learning technology not only allows both younger and older workers to relate to it, but it also facilitates knowledge transfer in advance of the silver tsunami as the technology is similar to everything else used in their daily lives.

Incorporate Video

According to Nielsen, video is the preferred content form for Baby Boomers. Approximately 27% regularly watch video on Facebook. No surprise, videos that are slower paced and have a great deal of information are more likely to appeal to Baby Boomers than faster paced videos with too many visuals (QuickSprout). By incorporating video presentation technology, you can carefully share important knowledge between all generations in your organization.

Boomers also are ideal candidates for creating How-To video tutorials. Unlike millennials, many Baby Boomers have accumulated a lifetime of both knowledge and delivering presentations and speaking in an effective and concise way.

Ditch the long training sessions

Boring monotonous lectures delivered alongside ponderous PowerPoint presentations underwhelm even the most motivated of learners. And lengthy training sessions almost guarantee that employees will forget what they have learned. While it’s often argued that millennials don’t have the patience for traditional learning methods, the fact is that these training sessions failed to ever engage employees.

A report by Bersin by Deloitte revealed that today’s workers don’t really have time to spend on learning– only 1% of the work week, which equates to approximately 4.8 minutes per day.

This means that most workplaces have the challenge of training and educating staff, yet the employees themselves have very little time available to receive this education. Considering the pending silver tsunami, it’s not unreasonable to say that delivering short, effective bursts of information is key to the continued success of your organization.  The large majority of employees desire video under five minutes in length, with some of those going so far as to say they prefer videos that are even shorter.

In today’s time restricted environment, it is more suitable to make use of micro-training to deliver training in bite sized nuggets rather than forcing employees into an eight-hour session. In fact, continuous and frequent micro-training helps workers grow their knowledge and expertise gradually, without taking them away from important daily tasks. Also, leveraging micro-training also ensures employees aren’t overwhelmed with content all at once.

Consider Generational Differences in Learning

Because we all learn differently, providing identical training to every employee is not ideal for optimizing effectiveness. This is particularly true when it comes to a multi-generational workforce. Collectively, we all are affected by time constraints, and various distractions, however different generations have different needs in how they want to receive their learning.

An approach that personalizes learning based on job requirements, learning preferences, and pre-existing knowledge, helps ensure that every employee receives a learning experience that is fresh, relevant to their jobs, and suited to their relevant skill level. Combing this approach with an on-demand learning experience allows employees to learn whenever and wherever makes sense to them.

Encourage collaboration

It’s simply not enough to only capture the knowledge of employees when they’re leaving the company. Modern workplaces must leverage the knowledge, skills, and experience of senior employees to help new and younger workers develop into future leaders. Interactive How-To video presentation technology provides workplaces with the ability to get experienced employees involved in building a repository of corporate knowledge. When collaborative learning is opened up–through discussions, or communities of practice etc., organizations can tap into the knowledge of the entire corporate community, so all employees benefit and learn from each other.

Consider employees in the field or factory

It’s easy to assume that the knowledge of greatest importance in an organization is that from your management and leadership team. There are however many roles and tasks carried out primarily by blue collar workers that require just as much instruction and expertise. Considering that some of these workers may have been on the job for many years and potentially are nearing retirement age, effective knowledge transfer for new generations of workers is vital. For example, your company may vehicles, in which case you likely have many employees working in plants. Unlike an office worker, these employees are often unable to leave their floor to attend to or provide training. This is why it is critical that once again micro-training is incorporated into employee training. The less time an employee takes to share their knowledge, the less productivity that will be lost. In the case of a lab or plant environment, employees can learn from where they are, without leaving their post.

Stop thinking in Terms of a Generational Divide

As we’ve established, Baby Boomers aren’t technophobic. They do understand technology and desire an environment to share their knowledge and skills. As we prepare for the silver tsunami, it’s critical that we recognize that generational trends and stereotypes don’t always reflect the complete truth. By facilitating knowledge transfer and relationship-building between Baby Boomers and future generations, workplaces can maintain success while looking to the future.

While many workplaces are devoting their attention to training that appeals to millennials, the reality is that whether your workers are 25 or 65, they all require a fresh new approach to training; one that offers a unified learning environment that benefits every single employee. And by incorporating interactive presentations into your strategy, you can ensure you satisfy the needs of all generations of learners.

In conclusion, it’s only a matter of time before the Silver Tsunami hits your organization. And while we cannot prevent Baby Boomers from retiring, we can ensure that the right solutions and technology are in place that makes their departure more manageable. An interactive How-To video solution can help you make the most of your senior employees, while helping you train a new generation of talent.