The Vanishing Asset

29 November 2023

How do you retain tribal knowledge as older workers retire?

Time passes. The fresh young workers of yesterday become the older, more experienced workers of today. The carriers of your company’s tribal knowledge. And as they get closer to retirement, it’s critical that all their knowledge and experience is passed on to a new generation. You can’t let this valuable asset walk out of the door and onto the golf course!

What exactly is tribal knowledge?

Your company’s greatest asset is the people you employ, and more specifically the body of knowledge about your business processes that they’ve built up over their years of employment. We all learn by experience, and so it’s your most experienced workers who are the repository of what has been termed ‘tribal knowledge’. These are the people that younger team members turn to for advice and training as they learn the ropes.

But what happens when these valued older workers retire?

It’s a question that’s vexing companies more than ever. Since the pandemic, we’ve seen the Great Resignation, and it’s hit the manufacturing industries hardest. Re-evaluating their lives, older workers are opting for early retirement and dropping out of the workforce, and since the pandemic this has been happening over 50 percent more often than before. Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age, while slightly younger staff are wary of on-site infection and are rejecting longer working hours. Those who are left are suddenly more valuable, to you and other companies, who might try and poach them.

The important thing is not to let all the valuable knowledge they carry in their heads walk out with them. An inexperienced workforce carries a cost, so companies need to find a way to retain tribal knowledge even as their veteran workers are leaving.

How can we capture tribal knowledge?

The knowledge and experience of your older workers is valuable, and to a certain extent the future wellbeing of your company depends upon being able to capture it and pass it on to the next generation. The solution is to formalize this knowledge and one way of doing this is to create digital work instructions and training platforms that ensure best practice developed over time can be disseminated throughout the whole organization.

The younger workforce has grown up as part of the digital generation. This makes them digital learners, happy to process information through images and videos – and this is why augmented reality and digital work instructions and training are so very effective. Text-based instruction manuals are a thing of the past, and learning via immersive digital experiences can cut training and maintenance time dramatically.

Using digital work instructions to capture valuable experience

Transforming the experience and knowledge of your veteran workforce into 3D digital work instructions is the way to capture tribal knowledge. Over time, you’ll amass a valuable library covering all your operations, accessible across teams, shifts and locations. Your entire workforce will be able to use it, and technicians and engineers will be able to quickly update it as new work processes develop.

There are multiple benefits to digitizing your work instructions as a way of capturing tribal knowledge:

How to use CDS Mentor to capture your tribal knowledge

CDS Mentor is a powerful and intuitive system for creating and delivering experiential and augmented reality work constructions. Designed for out-of-the-box use by manufacturing and engineering technicians, the accessible user platform requires no knowledge of coding, and as a cloud-based SaaS solution it can be scaled up for use across your whole organization. It represents the fastest way to turn your existing CAD assets into fully immersive learning experiences.

As well as ensuring that you’re able to capture tribal knowledge, CDS Mentor will improve your training efficiency, suiting the new digital native generation of workers. By using your own existing models and data, Mentor’s unique approach will allow your experts to effectively share their knowledge of process and best practice across all your operational tasks.

The result is a learning experience that is faster and more accurate than the traditional methods of training, without the need for the expensive development of complex standalone software. Trainees and frontline workers can access the information they need whenever and wherever they want it, and they can broaden their understanding and check out different scenarios without needing to access physical equipment.

Using a SaaS system such as CDS Mentor brings the world of digitization and augmented reality within reach of a far greater range of companies than the option of creating complex new software programs. It represents the best available method for capturing and formalizing your organization’s tribal knowledge before your most experienced experts ride off into the sunset.

Why not visit the CDS Mentor website to see a product demo or to arrange a 14-day free trial?