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Keeping Your Intellectual Capital & Utilizing Your Older Staff

 Retaining Intellectual Capital and Seasoned Staff

intellectual capital

The aging work force of America has grown in recent years, and this has made a huge impact on businesses. As large numbers of baby boomers are retiring, the amount of intellectual capital that businesses have is shrinking. Although underestimated, intellectual capital has the knowledge and skills that younger workers may not have or have overlooked. These workers have the technical skills, the background knowledge of the industry or company, and the knowledge of the history and evolution of a product or service. These workers carry with them valuable information and maintain valuable contacts that are essential to a business.

In this budget conscious time, employers are laying off or giving early retirement to those who make the most: the intellectual capital. Without intending to, these companies are ridding themselves of their most valuable asset. Some experts have nicknamed this as “brain drain” or “knowledge collapse”. Although in the short-term the company will save capital by replacing high salaries with lower entry salaries, the long-term effects are costly and potentially devastating. Imagine the top sales rep leaving with all of his contacts and relationships, and a new sales rep stepping in to take over. With no knowledge of the personal relationships, this could be a disaster. Many retirees do not take the time to write down everything they know to pass along to the next guy. Additionally, the number of people entering the work force is significantly lower than those retiring, which can cause a long-term money drain on a company. With fewer candidates, higher salaries can be demanded with large sign-on bonuses. Very soon it becomes clear that it would have been less costly to keep the older employees rather than forcing early retirement.

Using What You Have

As an employer, it can be confusing in how to handle this shift in employees. Several options are available for employers to help ease this transitional period without causing damage to the company.

Most importantly, employers need to analyze what information needs to be passed to the new employees. Organizing this information in an easy to use database, preferably searchable, will ensure that all employees can access what they need quickly, without frustration. Although this seems simple, keep in mind that employees sometimes keep knowledge to themselves to remain valuable to the company. The mindset is if you are the only employee that knows how to do something, you are less likely to be downsized. It is vital to ask yourself if you reward your employees for sharing, or do you run a more private information shop. Leaning to the information sharing route will make this transition relatively easy.

It is also important to periodically review your existing situation and analyze if you are ready for anyone critical to the operation to leave. How long will replacing that person take? Does that person hold the information vital to your organization to themselves or is it readily available? Those are a few of the questions to ask before making a plan.

Not To Overlook

  • Baby boomers are changing the face of retirement. Many boomers plan on working through their retirement, whether it be full-time or part-time. As an employer, look at retaining some of these workers, or even recruiting them for part-time positions.
  • Analyze your workplace culture. Are the efforts of your older workers rewarded, do they get projects, are they treated fairly in comparison with the younger workers? Be sure to not engage in age discrimination, even unintentionally.
  • Flexibility is the key to retention. Many retirees want to continue to work, but do not want the long hours or rigid time constraints. Try new schedules or ideas with these boomers to keep them on your team.

Phased retirements are an attractive option for both employees and employers. Consider taking on some of the retirees as contractors, giving them the freedom to work with flexibility and less pressure. Restructuring, such as flex time employees or job sharing can offer retirees another option. This also can help keep young talent with your company as well. If a company shows that they are willing to work with their situations, the talent will be more likely to stay with that company. Another option is to offer your part-time retirees benefits. Many are willing to take lower salaries in exchange for better benefits.

Other Ways to Succeed:

  • Make a plan for those potential retirees. Find ways to offer them a plan that will retain the information and the employees themselves on terms that work for everyone.
  • Actually run the numbers and figure out which is more beneficial to the company: keeping an older employee or hiring a new one. Be sure to include all factors.
  • Recognize that a wide range of ages in your workforce means diversity.
  • Acknowledge all factors in aging. Everyone’s personal aging is different based on their circumstances, and thus some older workers are in better health than younger ones and take less days off for their health.
  • Allow older workers to engage in training sessions. Let them teach when appropriate, and if not appropriate, have them train with the younger staff. Refresher courses never hurt!
  • When creating teams, put younger and older workers together to allow sharing of knowledge.
  • Make the workplace friendly for the aging, keeping in mind that aging sometimes means hearing and vision changes. Also keep in mind that joint and back problems can be prevalent in aging, so provide ergonomic furniture and workspaces.
  • When recruiting older persons for volunteer positions, give them duties relative to their talents. Don’t just have them answering phones, give them leadership roles as well.
  • Find agencies that can help employ aging workers and can allow businesses to circumnavigate the tangled rules of Social Security and Retirement Acts.

With the retirement of so many baby boomers, businesses need to be aware of strategies to retain the intellectual capital needed. Long-term effects must be examined in order to view the whole picture of what impact these losses can create. Keep in mind that passing the office to the younger workers does not necessarily mean that the knowledge is passed as well. Using the above strategies can help retain the intellectual capital of businesses and be a major factor in the betterment of the economy.

Up Next is a guest article by Chase Smith of www.chasingproductivity.com “How to Stay Positive& Productive”
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