Being the “hands on the keyboard” for your mentor

In an enlightening conversation I had yesterday, a senior leader where I work said that as we continue to face the likelihood of losing a large percentage of our workforce to retirement in the next few years, the organization has essentially three options to prevent hemorrhaging knowledge:

  1. Capture their knowledge (in a usable format) before they leave.
  2. Enable effective mentoring relationships that allow their knowledge to be transferred to the next generation.
  3. Hire them back as consultants.

As the conversation continued, I found myself ruminating on these options. Obviously, the first option is my personal goal and the goal of my team: to teach the workforce how and why to use social enterprise knowledge sharing tools – like wikis and blogs – to pull tacit knowledge out of the minds of people and aggregate it in a searchable and linkable format.

But the second option, while worthwhile, seems a bit shortsighted. After all, passing knowledge and insights from one generation to the next is important, but only delays dealing with the core problem: working in isolation.

I think an effective solution is to integrate (enforce?) knowledge capture within a mentoring program. This would mean providing the technology, training, and time for the mentee to be the “hands on the keyboard” for his mentor. Following each mentoring session, the mentee would either add to a wiki page or publish a blog post with what they learned from her mentor.

Would you be willing to pitch this idea to your mentoring folks?

Which is the biggest obstacle to adopting such a strategy, knowing how to do it, being willing to do it, or having the time to do it?

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One comment

  1. Michele Z. · May 28, 2010

    I tried to do this (capturing knowledge) prior to my retirement from the IC. It was tough to do, because managers didn’t see this as part of my “day job” or as part of wrapping up my work there.

    This sort of activity could (should?) be part of “out-proccessing” periods prior to retirement.

    Like

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