Dealing with the ‘knowledge cliff’

The economy has started to recover in the past 12 months or so and while this has given businesses a renewed sense of confidence, there are still many challenges for companies to overcome.

One of the most pressing issues that firms are facing at the moment is dealing with widening skills gaps and this is especially true for organisations that rely on highly-skilled technicians and engineers. As older workers retire, businesses are increasingly finding that there is a dearth of suitably talented youngsters to take their place. This process is widely referred to as the “knowledge cliff”.

Primeast has noticed this trend developing in the oil and gas industry in particular and it is threatening to undermine the recent spell of economic growth. The vast majority of business failures can be traced back to people issues – whether this is through miscommunication, misalignment of targets, an inability to resolve internal conflicts, or in some cases, because firms simply cannot find enough experienced and highly-qualified employees to add to their team.

What is the solution?

It is vital that oil and gas companies do everything they can to make their workforce as effective and productive as possible. Of course, this is much easier if firms have access to an endless stream of skilled engineers, but this is not realistic.

The key to creating a conveyor belt of talent is to think long-term and this is not something that exclusively applies to energy corporations – businesses in all sectors need to plan ahead. A recent study conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) showed that the most successful organisations will have a diverse workforce that covers four generations.

Many companies are wary about creating a multi-generational team – or as the CIPD calls it; a “4G workforce” – because they are scared of internal conflicts. Around one-third of the 3,000 employees who took part in the CIPD’s survey said they saw no challenges whatsoever in working with colleagues who were much older or younger than them.

A significant proportion of the 900 employers that also participated in the study revealed that multi-generational workforces are beneficial because they promote greater knowledge sharing and innovation.

Why are companies so slow to act?

The CIPD report found that nearly half of executives are concerned their managers are not equipped to oversee a 4G workforce and they have no plans to upset the applecart by changing their hiring policies.

Whilst this is clearly a big obstacle, it represents an area in which Primeast’s global network of around 100 experienced facilitators and coaches can help organisations iron out any conflicts that may arise. It is always advisable to take a long-term approach to overcoming human-based dilemmas and companies will ultimately reap the rewards if they have a diverse workforce that is pulling in the same direction.

CIPD research advisor Claire McCartney summed the situation up quite nicely when she said: “Many [employers] simply aren’t equipped to manage their age diverse teams in order to maximise their potential.

“This is a missed opportunity and could put businesses at a serious disadvantage in a four-generation future. We know that the multi-generational workplace is on the horizon, and businesses need to act now if they want to be prepared.”

Is your company ready to embrace the 4G workforce revolution? Primeast can certainly help you out.