The big generational shift
There have been discussions surrounding the great generational renewal in the workplace for a while. The 50’s generation, who have spent a large part of their working lives within the same company, are being replaced by an agile bunch born in the 90’s. We are not taken by tabloid claims that this new generation does not want to work, or that companies do not know how to attract them. What we are concerned with is that businesses are not adapting fast enough to the way the new generation handle information to enable the transfer of knowledge within the organisation.
Working for the same employer for decades
Think about it for a while, for how long have the 50’s generation been allowed to learn everything they know? We see it all the time, large groups of employees ready to retire, after spending their whole working lives within the same organisation. They began their careers as teenagers working on the factory floor or in a similar role, step by step growing within the company, together with the company. These employees have tended to carry a deep understanding of how their organisation work and after years of training, they possess a great deal of knowledge and experience. How many companies nowadays are willing to offer the 90’s workers the same kind of journey? Or should they even?
2016 – It’s all about constant accessibility
The world is different today, than 50 years ago. A number of key factors are shaping the change in knowledge-intense professions:
- Information overload – we produce more and more information. Thanks to the Internet and the World Wide Web, the amount of information available is greater than ever.
- Education has changed. Employees of the 50’s grew up during a time when education was about learning facts by rote. The schools of today focus more on teaching how to learn through experience, to find information and how to assess its reliability.
- Ownership is less important. We used to think it was important to own music albums, have them in our collection for display. Nowadays it’s all about accessibility, to be able to stream Spotify, Netflix or an online game or e-book on demand. Similarly we can see the increasing trend of leasing cars over owning them. Younger generations take these services and the accessibility they offer for granted and they treat information the same way, of course. Why wouldn’t they? It is no longer a competitive advantage to know something by heart, since that information is soon outdated. A smarter approach of course is to be able to access the latest information. Knowing how to search for information – when you need it.
Factors supporting the need for organising the free flow of the right information:
- Employees don’t stay as long as they used to in the same workplace anymore, which for example, requires a more efficient on boarding process. It’s no longer feasible to invest the same amount of time and effort on training one individual since he/she might be changing workplace soon enough anyway.
- It is much debated whether it is possible to transfer knowledge or not. Current information on the other hand is relatively easy to make available to others.
- Access to information does not automatically mean that the quality of information is high and the benefits great.
Organisations lack the right tools
Knowing a lot of facts and knowledge about a gradually evolving industry was once a competitive advantage. Companies and organisations have naturally built their entire IT infrastructure around this way of working. A lot of IT applications used today were built for a previous generation with another way of working and thinking. Today most challenges involve knowing where and how to find information. This is something we experience in our daily work with clients. Organisations more or less lack the necessary tools to support the needs of the newer generation in their daily work.
To summarize the challenge: organisations need to be able to supply their new workforce with the right tools to constantly find (and also manipulate) the latest and best information required for them to shine.
Success depends on finding the right information
In order for the new generation to succeed, companies must regularly review how information is handled plus the tools supporting information-heavy work tasks.
New employees need to be able to access the information and knowledge left by retiring employees, while creating and finding new content and information in such a way that information realises its true value as an asset.
Efficiency, automation… And Information Management!
There are several ways of improving efficiency, the first step is often to investigate if parts, or perhaps the entire creating and finding process can be automated. Secondly, attack the information challenges.
- What kind of information is it?
- Where is the information located?
- What is important, the information objects in their entirety or the subsets?
- How will the information be consumed?
- What prior knowledge is needed to interpret the information?
- How much information is out dated or distorting? (Only about 30% of the information within a company is believed to be of actual importance.) (http://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2012/07/17/defensible-disposal-you-cant-keep-all-your-data-forever/)
When we get a grip of the information we are to handle, it’s time to look into the supporting IT systems. How are employees supposed to find what they are looking for? How do they want to?
We have gotten used to find answers by searching online. This is in the DNA of the 90’s employee. By investing in a great search platform and developing processes to ensure high information quality within the organisation, we are certain the organisation will not only manage the generational renewal but excel in continuously developing new information centric services.
Written by: Maria “Ia” Björk & Joar Svensson