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Recently, a colleague asked if I have everything I need to move to the next phase of my career.  As a reluctant member of the aging workforce, I struggle with that question.  While younger workers look toward promotions and management roles, seasoned workers like me have “been-there-done-that.”  They may not be looking to move up in the organization, but they have so much experience and knowledge.  What, then, is their role?

Many wholesale distribution companies are watching as their long term employees reach retirement age.  A Midwest distributor, Edward Don & Company, has an employee with over 75 years of experience with the company. Can you imagine how much she has seen? As employees age and retire, they take with them decades of knowledge.  At the same time, companies focus on attracting and hiring millennials – fresh talent that has limited experience in the industry.  I have always felt there is a disconnect here. If we only focus on new talent, we allow our most senior employees to ride off into the sunset with all their knowledge.  Somehow, distributors need to leverage both the knowledge of seasoned employees and the fresh perspective of the millennial workforce.

Some companies are using mentoring to bridge this gap.  To be successful, mentoring programs need to be sustainable and well-managed.  And there needs to be a focus on getting the right mentors, perhaps an ideal role for experienced employees.  Healthcare distributor Cardinal Health has a high demand for mentors and actively recruits candidates.  Their various mentoring programs are a vehicle for younger employees to build their careers and for long term employees to pass along their knowledge.  They can focus on overall business knowledge or on a specific business skill.

Another way companies are sharing knowledge is by using social collaboration tools.  These tools can connect employees who have questions to company experts who can answer them.  Experts can also share their knowledge by posting articles and other content.  This reinforces a culture of continuous learning and keeps employees engaged with the company and with each other.

But what about the unforeseen gap in knowledge that happens when an employee retires?  While no one can see the future, workforce modeling tools can help predict and plan.  They can model future scenarios, forecast critical workforce needs, determine where and when skill gaps might arise, and develop strategies to fill them.  With a plan in hand, you are better equipped to connect company experts with employees who can fill future needs.

Experienced, long term employees and newly hired millennials – somewhere in the middle is a rich space of sharing and learning that can bring success for both companies and individuals.

SAP can help with all your people initiatives.  Visit us at http://go.sap.com/solution/lob/human-resources-hcm.html to learn more.

Lynn Lupo

Solution Manager, SAP Wholesale Distribution IBU

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