There are new challenges that threaten to undermine the continued growth of our knowledge economy. The giant sucking sound that could be heard is the sound of knowledge being drained out of organizations by retirements and other turnovers. The term Brain Drain was first coined by the Royal Society to describe the immigration of scientists and technologists to America from post-war Europe. The term has been broadened to define the mass immigration of technically skilled people from one country to another.
So what does that have to do with the Millennial generation? As Boomers retire there is the looming reality of a Boomer Brain Drain—without the corresponding brain-gain. Companies will face this over the next few years with increasing intensity.
According to the Bureau Of Labor Statistics, the average large company will lose 30-40% of it’s workforce over the next 5-10 years . Since Gen-exers are already in the workforce, the replacement for the Boomer mass exodus will be Millennial professionals. Recruiting and retaining them is going to be very competitive.
Transfer of Knowledge is one of the keys for building a relationship with the Millennial generation. If Boomer professionals do not attract and connect with this generation, the loss will be more than a tranquil work environment.
Tacit knowledge passed down from one generation to the next cannot be over-emphasized. Explicit knowledge is formal and is written down. Tacit knowledge is the kind of knowledge that is difficult to transfer from one person to another by simply writing it down. When we have tacit knowledge we are often not even aware that we possess it, let alone how valuable it can be to transfer it to others.
In learning to speak a language, tacit knowledge plays a major role. I don’t remember learning English, nor do I remember any formal details of teaching my children English. The information was tacit—simply passed on. One of the key connectors in the transfer was the relationship I had with my parents and the relationship I had with my own children.
In the same way, the relationship Boomer managers have with their Millennial recruits will loom large in transferring tacit information vital to the success of the organization. If the expertise is not learned it could be lost forever.
One NASA spokesperson said, “If we want to go to the moon again, we’ll be starting from scratch because all that knowledge has disappeared.”
This is simply one out of countless examples that could be sited. Organizations are in danger of bleeding technical, scientific, and managerial know-how at unprecedented rates.
Organizations in general, and managers in particular, that don’t understand how to connect with the Millennial generation are not only looking at costly turnover, but also the loss of valuable and strategic knowledge and expertise essential to the vitality and success of their organizations.
Managers with poor relationships with their employees are far less likely to share tacit knowledge with them. That’s because it’s done through mutually respectful relationships. Couple this with the tendency that Millennials are less likely to ask for details they are not given. Growing up they were used to being given thorough details for every assignment in school. As a result, they often fail to ask for details in the workplace.
A key component of talent recruitment and retention today is to become Millennial-ready. Knowing the orientations of Millennials and having the leadership skills to connect and leverage their strengths not only results in lower turnover and transition costs, it is also a key to retaining and building organizational knowledge.
This connection creates deeper engagement. Deeper engagement guarantees the transfer of vital knowledge and expertise. This also increases the potential for innovation.
So I guess we could say this not only eliminates brain drain—it also creates brain-gain!