Published on March 15th, 2018 | by Emergent Enterprise0
Avoid the Baby Boomer Brain Drain
Wilder Penfield was a man who couldn’t say, “It’s not brain surgery,” when he was talking about his work and research. In the first half of the twentieth century Penfield pioneered neuroscience with his humane treatment on patients with epilepsy. He discovered that he could work on a patient’s brain while they were still conscious and pinpoint the area of the brain that was causing the seizures. His later research showed that specific areas of the brain were associated with different human motor skills like speech or movement. This method called the Montreal Procedure was groundbreaking and essential to ongoing understanding of the brain and how it works. His research has gone on to give us a better understanding of cognitive experiences such as memory and hallucinations.
A company is much like a brain with the different departments each responsible for their own function. Within these departments there are employees that know their responsibilities inside and out and they are experts as what they do. Each segment of the company “brain” is active because of the contributions of their knowledgeable employees.
A very real problem for many companies is that these experts are leaving in large numbers. It is the exodus of the Baby Boomers as they reach retirement age. That means huge amounts of knowledge capital are walking out the door perhaps never to be shared with the replacement workers. The result is a weaker corporate brain which can mean a loss in productivity, an increase in inefficiencies and defects and a weakened company culture. In fact, this phenomenon is sometimes called the Baby Boomer Brain Drain and it is affecting companies in a wide range of industries.
The good news is that emerging technologies can help retain or replace the skills and knowledge of the departing boomers:
- Consider an artificial intelligence solution to carry the workload once done by the expert worker. Can the expertise be collected into a training voice assistant? Perhaps an AI tool can be designed such that the same expertise can be consulted in a virtual format.
- If the expertise is a step-by-step process, there is opportunity to develop an augmented or virtual reality solution. Have the steps spelled out by the expert and then build that process into training tool. Augmented reality glasses can be an ideal technology for this type of training.
- The timing may be for robotics to complete the same tasks but now without mistakes or down time. Machine assembly or skills required for dangerous jobs are excellent candidates for robots.
The research of Wilder Penfield led him to a mapping of the brain. He discovered that if he stimulated certain areas it would produce responses in limbs or organs of the body. Incredibly, this map is still used today, virtually unchanged.
You can lessen the impact of the Baby Boomer Brain Drain. If the different departments of a company are sections of the corporate brain the time is now to stimulate the knowledge resources in each department before the experts leave. Catalog their wealth of expertise through personal interviews, apprenticing and video archiving. Any and all of these valuable experiences can become the foundation of new technology implementation and digital transformation.