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Bridging the Generational Knowledge Gap


In the wake of World War II, a phenomenon known as the baby boom began in 1946 and continued through 1964, resulting in the birth of 76 million individuals in the USA alone. Fast forward to 2025, where an average of 8.0 adults will turn 65 each minute. The impending demographic shifts in North America and Europe over the next two decades are set to be profound.

It is recognized that intergenerational workforces are now the norm for most enterprises. It is all too easy to see these generations as being in competition with each other. Through building connections between generations in transition, organizations can unlock collaboration and creative energy that will yield significant results.

How organizations choose to address their talent and knowledge management concerns today will play a pivotal role in their long-term survival and growth. In some cases, organizations are witnessing vast stores of knowledge walking out the door with retiring personnel or investments in training not being realized due to disconnected and dissatisfied workers leaving in pursuit of better and more fulfilling options. Central to this transition is the establishment of a common language for issue resolution across the business, as organizations must embrace a shared platform to navigate the challenges of a changing workforce.

The Knowledge Crisis

While advances in healthcare have led to a stable retirement age for many, the building mass exodus of retiring baby boomers from the workforce poses a unique challenge. These retirees take with them not only their subject matter knowledge and skills but also a wealth of implicit knowledge accrued over their careers. This unspoken, experiential knowledge is critical to organizational competency and can represent up to 70% of an organization’s assets, according to Canadian researchers. Up to 42% of the knowledge professionals ability to excel in their roles comes from the insights and experiences of others. This reliance on shared knowledge underscores the importance of knowledge transfer.

The Aging Workforce

Many high-level professional occupations, particularly those requiring postgraduate degrees, have a disproportionate number of older workers. The costs associated with these high-wage earners leaving the workforce are considerable. Unfortunately, only a third of US businesses have analyzed their workplace demographics and projected the impacts of retiring workers. Simultaneously, a new generation of employees – Gen Z and Millennials – seeks a higher degree of access and involvement in decision-making processes.

bridging the generational knowledge gap

The Solution: A Supported Cross-Generational Exchange

The convergence of these and other generations in the workplace presents an opportunity for organizations to create a seamless knowledge transfer process. If we anticipate the need to prepare the workers of tomorrow for senior roles earlier than in the past, why not foster an environment where structured coaching and mentoring are the norm? This approach should be aligned with business needs, ensuring relevancy and engagement. In some organizations, such initiatives are already underway.

The Role of Development

Educated workers tend to stay in their careers longer, driven by factors such as job satisfaction, income, and social connections. This provides an opportunity for knowledge transfer. However, not all experienced employees possess the skills to pass on their knowledge effectively. Strategic workplace initiatives that emphasize knowledge transfer are essential. These initiatives are highly visible and demand active participation.

Finding Common Ground

Research by the Center on Aging & Work revealed commonalities between the older and younger generations in the workplace. Engaging both groups in endeavors that stress the need for initiative, while highlighting common concerns, can yield significant returns. Current organizational leadership must consider how to leverage today’s business needs as a conduit for transferring past knowledge to future leaders.

the intergenerational workforce

The Importance of Technology

While technology can enhance workplace efficiency, it cannot replace the knowledge and skills of experienced employees. Skilled and experienced workers are essential to ensure technology is used effectively. Software and hardware companies recognize this and actively promote knowledge transfer to maintain a skilled workforce.

Issue Resolution-Based Transformation

The key to successful workplace transformation lies in identifying and prioritizing the most relevant business issues. Conducting an organization-wide Situation Appraisal engages cross-generational teams in identifying and probing business concerns. These teams prioritize issues based on their impact, aligning with the organization’s strategic goals. Project management plays a crucial role in this process, ensuring that goals are defined, resources allocated, and risks managed effectively.

A Common Language for Success

A common language is vital for effective knowledge transfer and issue resolution. Organizations should adopt systematic approaches that make thinking visible for problem resolution, decision making, risk management, opportunity development, and project management. These approaches must be scalable and founded on best-practice principles, engaging the experience of all participants, regardless of their perceived expertise.


The impending knowledge crisis brought about by the retirement of the baby boomer generation necessitates a proactive approach to knowledge transfer and issue resolution in the workplace. Organizations that recognize the value of shared knowledge, establish cross-generational exchanges, and implement systematic approaches for addressing business concerns will thrive in the face of this workplace transformation. By creating a foundation of commonality, organizations can unleash an era of unexpected innovation and secure their long-term success.

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