What is tribal knowledge and why should a company care? It is valuable, exclusive information stored only inside someone’s mind and communicated only verbally (if at all). The “someone” may have played an important role in an organization for decades and knows a thing or two that the company treasures yet cannot duplicate.
This knowledge may be as simple as understanding why an eerie sound is emitted when a huge piece of expensive equipment warrants maintenance. It may be how to do makeshift fixes of key assets using tools, wires and who knows what. Or it may be a technician who came up with an obscure software workaround to enable old databases and servers to continue to interoperate for several years.
Whatever the intelligence, it is not documented or easily transferred—and it becomes a problem when it is exiting.
Industry is seeing valuable information walk out the door on a national and even global scale. With the retirement of baby boomers, enterprises face the expensive challenge of trying to move forward without the knowledge lost. Companies deal with turnover and training needs on a regular basis, but what about the learning biases and technology preferences of the younger workforce?
The outflow of baby boomers and influx of millennials and Gen Z, combined with massive technology changes resulting from Industry 4.0 innovations, are bound to leave a knowledge gap and, likely, a skills gap in the workforce.
Here are some broad suggestions to help operations adapt to the changing times.