MiMfg Magazine August 2019 - Page 15

August 2019 Step 5: Next Step Identification This is the step in which true knowledge sharing and retention begins. How you proceed will vary from company to company but mentorship tends to be the most common technique (see sidebar for additional methods). Mentorship Manufacturers are uniquely positioned to make knowledge sharing fun, exciting and interactive. With anywhere from three to five generations under one roof, opportunities for mentoring are all around. “Having a company culture which embraces and sees direct value in mentoring elevates our experienced employees and provides the nurturing environment for knowledge and skills to be passed onto our apprentices,” said Kelly Victor-Burke, majority owner and CEO for Burke Architectural Millwork. “Mentoring is a vital, daily activity at our company.” (see opposite page for more about the mentorship program at Burke) Mentorship can happen in a variety of ways. What it should never be is a last-minute addition to an anticipated change. Unless you are first building a mentorship-based culture, avoid asking retiring employees to, for the first time, mentor the less-experienced employees. Mentorship should never feel like you are being pushed out the door but rather as a way for the wealth of knowledge you have to continue. It’s not just C-suite leaders who care about the legacy they leave behind. Mentoring is a great way to help ensure the work and knowledge of dedicated talent remain intact long after they retire. Wherever you can, make mentorship part of the culture and, remember, it can absolutely be a two- way street. Just as experienced employees can help new employees learn and develop their skills, younger generations can impart important knowledge to older generations not ready to retire. As technology and innovations advance, some positions may be changed, adapted or eliminated altogether. This means you will either lose employees or have to retrain them for modern positions. Employees in their 40s, 50s or 60s who have learned high-tech skills from Generation X and Millennials could adapt easier to new training opportunities. Finally, time is another finite resource and intensive mentorship efforts can negate an employee’s ability to work as efficiently as they could otherwise. Consider hiring recently retired workers part-time to serve as mentors. “We’ve restructured some of our operations to better foster mentorship, including bringing in retired milling experts and to work alongside our younger apprentices,” said John Barnett, president MiMfg Magazine Additional Knowledge Sharing Methods There are plenty of other ways to improve company-wide knowledge of individual job tasks: • Interview employees either through written, audio or video testimonials • Create training manuals • Make a point to assess existing processes and procedures either annually or quarterly (and using this time to develop processes for new tasks as they are created) • Develop new apprenticeship and training programs (and funding exists — check out mimfg.org to learn about the Going PRO Talent Fund) • Make succession planning a priority not just for leadership roles but across all positions. You can address it with employees as a way to ensure stability as they move up within the company so they see it not as an attempt to replace them but as a way to ensure smooth transitions as they advance in their career • Locate innovative and new technology that can help modernize old tasks or increase efficiencies & CEO of Reed City Group (flip to page 22 for more on their story). “Our full-time operators have full-time jobs. We can bring people in to ensure mentoring happens without having to sacrifice time and production.” Some companies are also utilizing staggered retirements so rather than being there and then being gone, your close-to-retirement workers may reduce hours or days on the job. As they do, they may already anticipate the importance of mentoring their replacement and companies should do what they can to encourage that act. Step 6: Continuous Improvement Never assume you’re done. Knowledge sharing should be a continuous process. Someone will always be retiring or moving to a new position and someone else will always be starting out. Quantifying the benefits of knowledge retention can be difficult but its importance cannot be overstated. It remains more cost-effective to retain an existing employee than it is to hire someone new. Sharing knowledge can bring a sense of importance to someone’s day-to-day job. Seeing your employer have the confidence to train you in new skills can increase your company loyalty and reduce the likelihood of looking elsewhere. And never underes- timate the bonds that can be created between coworkers when they work side-by-side and learn from one another. 15