Fall 2017
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CTDO Magazine

Prepare for the Silver Tsunami

Friday, September 29, 2017

Before Boomer employees retire, capture the valuable knowledge they possess.

Every day, 10,000 Baby Boomers retire from the workforce. And for too many businesses, when those employees walk out the door, they take with them a career's worth of institutional knowledge.


The value of that knowledge is hard to overstate.

When a veteran sales rep exits, how do you measure the value he provided customers through a deep understanding of each account's history and issues? When a long-time manager leaves, how do you quantify the loss of her insights into her business, competitors, and employees? When any subject matter expert retires, what is the cost to his colleagues who relied on the expertise to work productively on a day-to-day basis?

The immeasurable value of institutional knowledge is why the "Silver Tsunami" (the latest buzzword for the wave of Baby Boomers nearing retirement) has become a top concern for many executives.

Fortunately, there's a way to prevent institutional knowledge from departing with your retirees. Curating expertise before employees exit not only helps you bridge skills gaps, but also fosters a culture of knowledge sharing from which your entire organization can benefit.

Formalizing succession planning at scale

Typically, expertise is shared informally during one-on-one conversations. The challenge of the Silver Tsunami will be in formalizing those exchanges to preserve all the knowledge soon headed out the door.

Proactive organizations have begun asking veteran employees to share their expertise more broadly through brown-bag presentations and documentation of job-specific functions. Because companies can't predict which insights they'll wish they'd captured, many firms now seek to preserve as much as possible, using technology to scale the capture of knowledge and make it widely available to other employees.


Using video to preserve institutional knowledge

There's no shortage of options for preserving knowledge. Wikis and intranets enable companies to build encyclopedias of expertise. And forums and social networks allow experts to chime in as needed. However, text-based solutions all share a fundamental flaw: Writing detailed documentation is a hard and time-consuming process. Even when done well, the written word often still fails to express the intricacies of complex information.

A better solution is one that enables experts to show what they know, presenting information the same way they would in person, but preserving it for everyone's benefit. For many organizations, video is becoming the preferred medium.

High-quality video cameras are now commodities in laptops and smartphones, enabling experts to quickly record explanations and illustrate complex topics. At the same time, "corporate YouTubes" have come to provide a secure, central library where those recordings can be stored, searched, and shared on demand.

Every business has its own ways of passing along valuable knowledge, whether through formal knowledge management or informal social learning. As organizations prepare for their own Silver Tsunamis, video can help scale those programs and ensure your expertise is preserved even after your expert leaves.

About the Author

Ari Bixhorn is vice president of technical evangelism at Panopto. In this role, Ari is responsible for driving awareness and understanding of Panopto's enterprise video platform. Prior to Panopto, Ari worked at Microsoft Corporation for 12 years, writing speeches for CEO Steve Ballmer, leading business development in the Windows division, and driving product management efforts within the developer tools division. Ari studied computer science at Virginia Tech. 

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