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Are you ready for the brain drain?

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You probably already know that the next few years will see a major depar­ture of retirement-ready baby boomers from the workforce. Are you practicing good knowledge management to make sure your best ideas and wisdom don't walk out the door? Here are some expert tips:

Mentoring. A formal process for part­nering newer workers with veterans is perhaps the best way of capturing what the pros call "tacit knowledge"—the insti­tutional memory and tricks of the trade that typically don't get written down.

Such mentoring relationships don't have to end with the mentor's retirement; in fact, they're often easier to manage when both partners aren't juggling day-to-day tasks. Consider options for a phased tran­sition where outgoing veterans' primary responsibility becomes giving advice and counsel to younger successors. And don't limit yourself to one-on-one pairings. 

"Action learning." This is General Electric's term for pairing up rising stars with veterans on cross-function project teams. In addition to putting a variety of skills and resources to bear against impor­tant challenges, the GE strategy exposes young workers to important in-house knowledge while at the same time giving those up-and-comers a reason to soak up as much of that wisdom as they can.

It's an important principle to keep in mind: The best time to transfer your veterans' tacit knowledge to their successors is when that knowledge can be put to rapid and productive use. The action-learning concept is also a potential framework for setting up phased-retirement arrange­ments with your veterans. 

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