How to Get Your Top Team Members to Share Their Knowledge

Getting seasoned workers to share their knowledge can be tough. How can you encourage your most experienced team members to invest in the next generation?

Perhaps it’s not so much a lack of interest in sharing but more a case of not knowing how to go about it, or if their efforts would even be welcomed. As a leader, you can create ways to capture the stories of your older and most experienced workers — whether on video, audio recording, or even in writing.

Tapping your natural talent for YouTube.

Many young workers turn first to the internet, often from the convenience of their mobile devices, to learn new skills or catch up on industry news. You may not have thought about it, but you may right now be sitting on a ton of untapped talent and valuable experience that could be lost to the next generation without your efforts to capture it.

How can you, as a leader, motivate some of these seasoned workers to share the information and to teach younger workers before they leave? For Willink, it’s an easy answer: “I would assign them people, and I would make YouTube videos.”

He offers an example of a project at Origin USA, a clothing company he co-owns, where older workers were people helping to make vintage looms work again. “If we wouldn't have caught these people, if we had been 10 years later, we probably wouldn't have been able to do this,” said Willink. As each generation ages, you risk losing older skills and insights.

“Literally record what they're doing,” Willink said. He has also found, “if you highlight [the value of the project] to them, they'll be excited about sharing — most of them. Hey, we want to capture what you're doing ‘cause you're good at it.” These workers have spent decades in their individual crafts, and workers who come after them are going to want to benefit from their experience.

YouTube video creation isn’t just for young influencers. With the proliferation of smartphones, anyone can create high-quality video and audio with ease, and without a fancy production budget.

Look for the easy wins to start: Who’s the talkative one who’s always offering to share tips on the worksite? They could be your first YouTube sensation.

As Willink says, there’s tremendous value in “actually recording the techniques and the skills and having them pass on that knowledge.”

No time like the present.

If you’re wondering where to start, you could do so by taking an inventory of your workers over a certain age, or with a certain number of years’ experience in their craft.

Among that group, you’re certain to identify at least a handful of seasoned workers who would welcome the opportunity to share their insights — perhaps even their struggles and successes — with the upcoming generation.

You can start as formally or informally as makes sense for your organization. There’s nothing that says these videos have to have anything in common other than the workers’ desire to share with those who come after them. One interviewee may want to answer specific questions, while another can simply take a topic (or no topic) and run with it.

Creating these videos offers cross-training and team building opportunities as well. Consider pairing a younger worker from one area with an older worker from another, to provide an occasion for finding commonalities across work disciplines. Or offer members of the same team the chance to record their fellow teammates, where the depth of the conversations likely will be enhanced by their shared history together.

Takeaways.

Capturing your experienced workers’ experiences — their techniques, their philosophy — could be an invaluable resource for your newer workers. And it’s a way for older workers to give back and to pass on tips and tricks they’ve honed over the decades.

Everyone on your job site has a story. The key is to identify ways to capture and share those stories so they don’t walk out the door when your workers do.

Consider making an inventory of your seasoned workers:

  • Look across their work history to identify their specific area(s) of expertise.
  • Don’t limit your interviews to the obviously outgoing types; reach out to everyone.
  • For each interviewee, consider their unique strengths, work history, and life experience.
  • Use a set of teaser questions to get the conversations going.
  • Involve younger workers in capturing older workers’ stories: in video, audio, or print.

You may be surprised who’s camera shy and who isn’t. Plus, with so many recording options, this doesn’t have to be a big or costly production.

And who knows? A simple phone-recorded video conversation may help you surface content that would make a great podcast or other outbound piece, in addition to the precious knowledge you’re capturing for your company and its next generations.