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Tip: Protect Employee Knowledge with Experience-Based Learning

March 23, 2011

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At many distributors, some employees have been around for decades. These employees have a deep knowledge of how to get things done; unfortunately, this type of knowledge is not usually written down, and so companies often lose it when those employees retire or leave for another company. "There is a vast underestimation of the hole people leave behind after a downsizing or a retirement," says Harvard professor Dorothy Leonard in Protecting Your Knowledge Base.

Using everyday opportunities for experience-based learning is one way to ensure that younger or newer employees are gaining the experience needed to follow in a retiree's footsteps. Very often, companies neglect opportunities for observation or shadowing in the workplace. But these opportunities can make the learning curve that much less steep when the time comes to hand the reins to the next generation.

According to a survey by MDM – featured in A Demographic Shift in Distribution – nearly half of younger workers look for management training programs when considering potential employers. About 43 percent say the opportunity to learn new skills is one of the most important attributes of a potential employer. And management training opportunities were a popular choice for survey respondents to the question: What do you consider to be the most important methods for rewarding work?

Distributors should take advantage of younger workers' strong desire to learn and incorporate experience-based learning and mentoring/coaching programs into their existing training programs.

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