Intergenerational knowledge transfer

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[edit] Introduction

Intergenerational knowledge transfer is the exchange of knowledge between the generations within a company or organisation. It is used to promote cooperation between younger and older employees and to prevent the loss of knowledge that would occur if older employees left the company. For the purpose of managing intergenerational knowledge transfer, it is necessary to identify both the knowledge concerned and the relevant competences of retiring employees and those individuals who will be involved in the process of knowledge transfer.

[edit] Facts

Knowledge is often divided into explicit and implicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is formal in nature and can be easily passed on. Implicit knowledge, on the other hand, is intuitive, experiential, informal and individual. It is difficult to pass on in a systematic way. Implicit knowledge is based above all on individual experience and personal attitudes, perspectives and emotions.

Older employees possess valuable experiential knowledge, comprising explicit and implicit knowledge. As such, experiential knowledge is not merely professional knowledge – it is also “in-house knowledge” acquired by employees during the course of their often long tenure in the company. “Knowing what” plays a less important role in intergenerational knowledge transfer than “knowing how”, because experiential knowledge is only rarely documented.

As well as the departing employee and his or her potential successor, other people should ideally also be involved in the process, including colleagues who work closely with the function in question or who are customers are suppliers in a process chain. Line managers can act as a link between younger and older staff members. If available, an internal project manager or facilitator can also accompany the knowledge transfer process.

As well as the achieving the actual objective of passing on knowledge, intergenerational knowledge transfer can create other advantages for the company and the staff members involved. By applying knowledge transfer systematically, a company can protect itself against generational conflict and avoid competition between the age groups. A further positive effect is the development of in-house staff that comes with the exchange of experiential knowledge. Companies are largely saved the costs of training, courses, or recruitment of new employees.

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