Strategies to Save Intellectual Capital of Retiring Boomers

category-badge-FINANCEBaby boomers have been a driving force of economic and social change since birth.  Therefore, it should come as no surprise that they will have an enormous impact on companies of all sizes as they enter retirement.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, roughly 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 everyday, until the year 2030. In addition, a report released by the Social Security Administration, shows that 33 percent of our workforce, including 48 percent of our supervisors will be eligible for retirement in 2015.

As baby boomers leave the workforce, manufacturers must grapple with the loss of talent and experience. The Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College Manufacturing Industry Report found 40.6 percent of manufacturing employers experienced more challenges transferring knowledge from more experienced employees to lesser experienced employees.

Retirement Risk

When a worker retires, companies not only lose someone to accomplish a job function, but their accumulated knowledge and expertise. These skills walk out the door with them as they head into retirement. It is essential for employers to realize that hiring qualified new bodies in replacement of older employees does not make up for the intellectual knowledge lost.

In addition, employers must recognize that knowledge loss is not limited to management or professional positions.  It applies to all job classifications within the organization including, equipment operators, maintenance personnel, etc.

Preventative Measures

To avoid this potential risk, manufacturers must find a way to prepare new employees and preserve the knowledge of older workers.   However, it takes more than a few procedure manuals with checklists to effectively transfer knowledge.  Studies at Lockheed Martin dispelled three commonly held myths about knowledge-transfer:

  1. Myth: Capturing knowledge is enough.
    Fact:  The knowledge must be applied before the expert leaves in order to reveal and incorporate critical details.
  1. Myth: It’s easier to transfer knowledge one-on-one.
    Fact:  Groups lead to better outcomes since workers get the benefit of learning from each other’s questions.
  1. Myth: Inexperienced people will slow the group down
    Fact:  Inexperience helps to diversify a team and prevent basic, yet important questions from being overlooked.

These studies also show that the process happens over time… so don’t delay!

Where to Begin?

First, there are two types of intellectual knowledge:  explicit and tacit.

  • Explicit knowledge is that which can be easily explained and stored in databases or manuals.
  • Tacit knowledge is difficult to transfer from person to person through written or verbal form – it comes from experience.

It is important to capture both types.  However, having a plan to capture and transfer tacit knowledge before it is lost forever is critical to future success.  So, just how do you go about capturing this knowledge?

Implement a Knowledge Retention Program

Bridging the Gaps, a research report by The Conference Board, is an excellent framework to use when creating your knowledge retention program.  The report details the Knowledge Transfer Life Cycle and offers a 5 step process to transfer knowledge effectively.


  1. Identify and evaluate the knowledge
  2. Validate and document the knowledge
  3. Publish and share the knowledge
  4. Transfer and apply the knowledge
  5. Learn and capture the knowledge


The report includes valuable information on how age impacts knowledge transfer and strategies to adapt transfer techniques to meet the needs of a multi-generational workforce.  In addition, it details 15 different methods to transfer knowledge and tips on choosing the right ones for your organization.

Reach out for Help!

Creating a system to capture the intellectual knowledge of retiring workers will ensure their talent is not lost.  OH!Manufacturing can connect your will the right resources to help you develop and implement a Knowledge Retention Program. Contact us for more information.

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