According to Tim Russell, manager of learning and development for Nintendo of America, the company uses knowledge transfer to be innovative while never losing touch with the creators of some of its most memorable cultural icons.
Senior Vice President Don James is one such employee.
“He is literally the guy that named Super Mario, and he was one of the very first employees here,” Russell said. “He was working in a warehouse, putting the coin-operated Donkey Kong machines together. Not only does he maintain the knowledge and maintain the history because he experienced it, he shaped the culture in a lot of ways.”
Sustained lifelong devotion to an organization won’t occur on its own, however. As baby boomers age and technology changes, learning leaders must work to ensure aging workers update any skills or capabilities needed to compete in today’s business world.
“One way to do it is to shift their perspective,” Russell said. “These people are going to be resistant because it’s been done this way forever, or, ‘I don’t think we need to change because we’ve experienced success without the use of these tools in the past, so why should we use them now?’”
Older workers may need to be coached to set goals and development plans. Learning leaders should reframe their approach to present new technologies and ways of doing business to this workforce cohort.
“I say, ‘Let’s pretend you’re not working on your development plan, let’s pretend you’re working on a legacy plan,’” Russell said. “Literally use the word ‘legacy’ to create a platform of interest to them.”
Older workers should then ask themselves what their legacy is going to be and how they’re going to leave their mark on an organization. Learning leaders can frame that portion of the conversation as an opportunity to modernize and adopt some of the newer social media trends and learning tools.
Innovation is necessary for a company’s growth and future success. If older workers are keepers of the company culture, that culture might be behind the times technologically. Learning leaders should introduce components that encourage learning and innovation. Otherwise, the older generation might ask, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”
If veteran workers need to be coaxed toward change, remind them they are there not to climb the corporate ladder but to create a legacy using their unique knowledge and experience to improve the company.
Balancing history, tradition, values and current trends, actions and practices inside the company can lead to a bright future for any organization.
“In order for your legacy to be successful, you need to understand how to speak the language of the newbies … or at least respect it in a way that they will be willing to listen to you. Tap into something that matters to older workers,” Russell said.