How to Bridge the Generational Gap With the Core 4, Part 2

Posted by Mark Roman on October 27, 2020

In many workplaces, training younger employees to become part of the management team can be a challenge. Manufacturing plants and other facilities are no different.

With much of the older generation at or near retirement age, ensuring that the younger generation is ready to take the reins is more important now than ever to ensure that facilities stay productive, profitable, and adhere to strong environmental, health and safety standards.

Part of the problem is the so-called generational gap, which can cause misunderstanding and conflict. In a nutshell, the older generation often views younger people as not willing to work hard and too dependent on technology. The younger generation sees older folks as out of touch and set in their ways.

Neither side is wrong or right. There is truth in both statements. In any case, both sides need to come together respectfully if vital knowledge is to be passed on to new management or the consequences to the facility and overall business can be drastic.

I recommend using a specific framework to overcome this challenge, what I call the Core 4 requirements for a smoothly running facility:

- Communications
- Facility Knowledge
- Property History
- Documentation

Mastering the Core 4 gives you a full picture of your facility, including what it does and how it does it, as well as what was done in the past. Only with that knowledge can you make effective decisions. The Core 4 also provides guidance on the best ways of training new employees, ensuring they understand what is needed for effective facility management.

(I covered Communications and Facility Knowledge in Part 1 of this article, which you should read first, if you haven’t already.)

Now let’s explore the remaining parts of the Core 4:

Property History

It’s one thing to understand what your facility does today. Just as important, is understanding what happened at the site in the past. This is especially true with older facilities that have changed hands many times over the years and were engaged in a variety of tasks.

This property history can have a huge impact in many areas. And as the current manager, it doesn’t matter whether you were there or not, any issues that come up are your responsibility.

You can get insight into property history in a variety of ways:

- Records
- Files
- Site maps
- Architectural drawings
- Photos
- Regulator records, including past violations
- Interviews with former long-time employees

Investigating property history helps you identify and protect yourself against risks and liabilities. You can avoid making mistakes that were made in the past.

Not having a handle on property history can have serious – and expensive – consequences.

In one facility we worked in, the client had to stop a major building expansion in its tracks. When they broke ground, they hit old storage tanks last used in the 1980s by the former owner of the site. Because they didn’t know the property’s history, they didn’t know the tanks were there.

Construction was put on hold so the tanks could be properly decommissioned and removed. Unfortunately, soil contamination was found during the tank removals, which took well over a year to address and obtain regulatory approval so that the building expansion could continue.

Understanding property history helps you to develop a foundation for effective management and training. When you know where you came from and know where you are now (facility knowledge), you – and the next generation of managers – can figure what you need to do next.

That’s why it’s so important to maintain historical records of your facility and collect any documents, drawings, and other materials that helps you develop a snapshot of the past… and continue to build on that history by collecting and organizing the same materials during your tenure so they benefit future generations.

Form more information on Property History, check out another one of our articles here.

Documentation

All of the Core 4 requirements work in harmony, with documentation playing a central role. As you gain facility knowledge, you must document it. As you build a record of property history, you must document it. And documentation must be in a form that it can be effectively communicated.

Documentation is key in the training process and making sure that a new generation of management has a knowledge base to build on and don’t have to reinvent the wheel when they take over.

One of the generational gap issues we find at many facilities we visit is exactly how to document important information like:

- Environmental, health and safety reports
- Key policies and programs
- Records of training, inspections, permits, and required monitoring
- Work journals that showcase how tasks and processes are done

Senior managers often prefer to have paper copies of everything. They like filing cabinets full of documents.

Younger managers have found that digital records are more easily managed, which means scanning paper copies. (Quick tips: When scanning documents make sure the resolution is high enough and all necessary pages are included. Also, the file format should be standardized and not dependent on specific software to open. And please – make sure you review your scanned images for completeness before you destroy your paper copies!)

A recent experience with a client showed the importance of documentation and just how handy having things in digital form can be.

Regulators were trying to officially close a site in Texas, and the case manager asked our client for the regulatory closure letters for removal of storage tanks that were issued back in the 1990s. The client had meticulously kept records, which is good. But… that closure letter was somewhere in 30 boxes of historical data for that site.

Luckily the client had a small administrative office that handled EH&S management for the company, including the site in Texas. Because they didn’t have room to store documents, they had long ago gone completely paperless with their records. They would scan copies of every paper document, then save the scanned document electronically with, and this is key, a description of the contents. With their system, you could type in a phrase or keywords and find the document you needed in a matter of seconds. Compare that effort to having to physically look through 30 boxes of files for a few letters!

Within minutes, we had the closure letters we needed to satisfy the regulators. It would have taken days if we had to go through the file boxes.

This ease of use and retrieval, and ability to store vast amounts of information, means digital documentation will be the go-to. As a current facility manager, you can get the ball rolling and make it a part of the transition to the next generation.

For more information on the importance of Documentation, check out another one of our articles here.

Making the Core 4 Part of Your Routine

As senior managers make way for younger employees, a key part of that changeover should be emphasizing the Core 4: Communications, Facility Knowledge, Property History, and Documentation.

It’s essential to training and passing on your knowledge and expertise, not just of best practices but also of issues specific to your facility.

This free download can provide guidance and ensure that the Core 4 are always top of mind:

Core Four Requirements Checklist.

Topics: Newsletter