The multi-generation paid work force is grappling with the loss of “wisdom” from its elders. Retirement looms for many with deep experience and knowledge. So, too the volunteer corps in many organizations will lose not baby boomers, but those in their early and mid-80s. The knowledge of launching annual events, knowing where the extra chairs are stored, and having connections with businesses in the community will be lost.
In addition to this the younger generations are “job” hoppers and so their level of knowledge might be good for the short run and for innovative projects, but cannot be relied on for depth of experience. How to bridge the knowledge gap is the challenge.
Learning styles are different for older people from their IMing grandchildren. Here are some hints on how to pass along significant information and share the secrets. Begin by knowing the difference in imparting information from generation to generation.
- Those born from 1925-1945 and 1946-1964 are most comfortable in a formal classroom with instruction and printed texts. They are more verbal than visual in their communication style.
- The Gen X generation born between 1965 – 1979 prefer informal learning, but can manage the formal classroom. They are very action oriented, wanting to focus on real solutions to problems. This first computer generation is more visual than verbal.
- The 1980-1997 generation (Gen Y or the Millennials) is a product of the computer age. They enjoy learning in a team process and through networks. They prefer doing things their own way, rather than being told how to do them.
- Acknowledge that the transfer of information from one generation to another is more complex than ever.
- Younger volunteers may prefer information through instant messaging, rather than attending a meeting.
- Set up blogs for younger volunteers to share their “wisdom.” Encourage older computer savvy volunteers to use these sites to share what they know.
- Consider a podcast on the details of volunteer duties.
- Take the same information and create three different ways of imparting it to volunteers, appropriate to each of the generational groups.
Adapted from report in The Futurist, January-February 2009, “Bridging the Gaps: How to Transfer Knowledge in Today’s Multigenerational Workplace” by Dian Piktialis and Kent Greenes. Available through The Conference Board www.conference-board.org
Want to utilize social networking sites more effectively for recruiting? Check out the article on the Volunteer Today Tech Tips page.