Generational Gaps in the Preservation of Knowledge Management

There is a lack of standardization within Knowledge Management framework across generational cohorts and functional disciplines within the Department of Defense (DoD). A knowledge framework is designed to provide an overall approach to a knowledge transfer process that can be evaluated as a whole over long periods of time, as well as specific elements that can be evaluated and fine-tuned over shorter periods of time (Lavis et. al. (2003). The DoD has fallen short in the area of knowledge policy or instruction among working level groups and functional disciplines.

There is a growing, yet unspoken concern within the knowledge management community regarding the generational gaps in the knowledge framework of a segmented workforce; where systemic and planned leadership strategies are resulting in mixed outcomes of change in the organizational structure. Every organization (or agency) has its very own unique culture, created over time via the shared attitudes, values, beliefs, perceptions, and customs of its members.

Culture evolves and solidifies over time, as individuals preserve and evolve the history, rules, and norms of the organization. The working culture perpetuates itself through employees via socialization, in particular when new members are admonished for going against cultural norms or are rewarded for adherence or assimilation of socially established values.

A systemic structure such as a Knowledge Management (KM) framework, falls short in its association between established knowledge and a firm’s performance outcomes based on the established framework, primarily due to the lack of understanding and consensus among key participants. Characterized by organizational complexity, the outcome of KM is to support leadership characteristics and organizational practices associated with an agency’s performance (Inkinen, 2016, p. 230).

A common breakdown of knowledge framework occurs when the knowledge and experience generated by senior members of the workforces are not sustained through the appropriate measures of documentation and training. As a frame of reference, the federal public services community is currently experiencing knowledge gaps unknowingly created by experienced members of the workforce whose wealth of knowledge on policy, procedures and daily execution of tasks are not communicated across the organization.

The lack of knowledge sharing between employees belonging to different generational cohorts.  Whether the actions are cultural, motivational, or based on one’s own willingness to aide their co-workers, data studies and literature on knowledge sharing (Whitemore, 2012) have shown that disconnects among generational cohorts can lead to dysfunction within an organizational structure.

Knowledge is increasingly valuable asset within any organization. Carmeli, Gelbard and Palmon, (2013) suggest that the process of knowledge sharing is influenced heavily by the actions of senior management and that leadership behavior is directly and indirectly related to knowledge sharing. Therefore, KM is viewed as the building block of an organization’s competitive advantage. As noted earlier, knowledge Management (KM) concept, the lack of standardization among the generational cohorts, and how age and cultural paths are all relevant obstacles to an individual’s knowledge path (Whitemore, 2012).

Therefore, when appropriate, it is important to establish an opportunity to develop new and improve upon existing strategies to streamline and preserve information passing through the different demographic makeups of a workforce.  Knowledge sharing is described as the movement of knowledge across boundaries of specialized domains. It is a human process requiring dynamic interaction and solid relationships among employees. Furthermore, the interaction and relationship building is essential for sustained organizational performance.

The identified management problem of knowledge sharing and transfer impact three areas of human capital management within the acquisition life cycle workforce; talent and acquisition, resource management, and managing uncertainty. According to Paira (2019), millennials are the most influential group of the technological era, making this group the primary focus of talent acquisition.

A primary characteristic of Generation Y (1980-1995) in a structured workforce such as federal service, is the use of ingenuity and innovation to streamline and preserve existing information passing through the different demographic makeups of their work group. However, the traditional hierarchy structure of the military workforce is contradictory to their horizontal work ethic. Millennials are more content with career broadening and lateral exposure over the need to climb the ladder to executive leadership.