Communication problems are as old as human history. Bridging gaps is a continual challenge, and industry leaders need to know how to capitalize on overcoming those gaps.
Within the oil and gas industry (as well as in other industries), there are four generations of talent: Traditionalists (birth years 1925-1945), Baby Boomers (1946-1965), Generation X (1966-1980) and Generation Y (1981-2000). Since the 1990s, professional journals have alerted oil and gas leaders that the Baby Boomers, now the largest percentage of the workforce, are exiting the workforce at an alarming rate. The potential consequences include:
--Increased competition for talent. Due to the decrease in skilled talent following the retirement of the Traditionalists and Baby Boomers, competition for workers with required professional degrees and experience will increase.
--Shifting geography. Technology enables talent to work from anywhere and teleworking is becoming more commonplace; therefore, organizations will be able to source talent globally. This shift will affect organizational communication, strategy and business processes.
--Shifting generation. The corporate leaders of tomorrow will most likely be talent from Generations X and Y. Currently, organizations are balancing the activities of retiring two groups and preparing the organization for two others, while not neglecting any.
--Aging workforce. A majority of Baby Boomers are predicted to exit the workforce by 2015 and are followed by a much smaller group of talent, Generation X. In addition, the next generations of talent have different learning styles, communication preferences and work/life balance requirements than their predecessors. To recruit, retain and develop the next generation of talent, organizations must recognize and adapt to these styles.
--Lost information and tacit knowledge. As Traditionalists and Baby Boomers exit organizations, some for the last time, so will their communal know-how—their tacit knowledge—especially if it has not been adequately identified, captured, codified and stored in corporate knowledge repositories.
--Preparing and training talent. The fact that Traditionalists and Baby Boomers are retiring does not mean that they will not re-enter the workforce in some capacity, such as starting a new career, or working as a consultant or part-time employee. In some cases, organizations will be able to leverage veteran expertise in this way. As a result, organizations will need to update the skills of these workers, or train them along with other new hires. Thus, learning/training departments may simultaneously have to train several generations, each having distinctly different learning styles. This can perplex learning organizations that do not understand the needs of each generation.
About the Author: Sebastian Francis is senior consultant, commercial business services, for SAIC Corp. and specializes in knowledge management and organization learning within SAIC’s oil and gas practice. He can be reached at Sebastian.L.Francis@saic.com.
Click for Francis’ full report, “Better Knowledge-Sharing: Fill The Dry Knowledge Well With These Practices:” knowledgewellsebastianfrancissaic2010
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