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Baby Boomers Are Retiring: Don't Lose Their Key Control Knowledge

Silver tsunami. Peak 65. Baby boomer brain drain. These are just a few of the terms to describe the record number of retirement-eligible employees on their way out of the workforce. Every day in 2024, 11,000 Americans will reach their 65th birthday. In fact, over 4 million people will turn 65 every year through 2027. As experienced employees leave, how will your organization preserve institutional knowledge? To prepare for this retirement wave, it’s important to have a knowledge transfer plan, particularly in your key control processes.

What Is a Knowledge Transfer Plan?

As the name implies, a knowledge transfer plan is a strategy for employees sharing information with their colleagues or other stakeholders. This knowledge could include details about the business’s customers, processes, or technology.

Although knowledge transfer often happens organically, it’s helpful to create a process for upcoming retirees to impart their knowledge to the next generation of employees. In the context of key control processes, knowledge transfer involves the nuanced details of keyholder permissions, the reasons behind certain security protocols, missing-key procedures, key audit history, and more. As employees retire, it’s important for them to pass along this information to ensure the continuity of key control processes.


Baby boomer retirement wave infographic

What Are the Implications of Knowledge Gaps in Your Key Control Processes?

Most younger workers (84%) consider it a loss when senior employees exit the workforce without sharing their years of knowledge. Without knowledge transfer, 47% of employees are forced to self-train, leaving critical gaps in workflows and information. When it comes to key control — and business operations in general — these gaps pose significant risks and challenges:

  • Security Vulnerabilities: When departing employees take with them the understanding of key control procedures, it creates potential weak points, leaving the company vulnerable to unauthorized access, misuse of keys, and human error.

  • Operational Disruptions: Key control is integral to the seamless functioning of various operations within a business. Being unfamiliar with key management procedures can lead to disruptions in accessing critical areas, affecting daily workflows and potentially causing operational bottlenecks.

  • Compliance Concerns: Many industries have stringent compliance requirements related to key control. Failing to follow key control processes can lead to compliance issues, regulatory fines, and damage to the organization's reputation.

  • Historical Context: Institutional knowledge often includes historical context regarding key incidents, security breaches, and successful preventive measures. Losing these valuable insights makes it more challenging to prevent future security incidents.

If employees are having to familiarize themselves with your company’s key control procedures on the fly, the odds of process breakdowns and security breaches increase.

How Do You Protect Key Control Knowledge When Workers Retire?

Preserving institutional knowledge when employees leave requires a sustainable key control framework. To be effective, your key control efforts should not rely on a single person’s knowledge or manual effort and should include the following elements:

  • Technology: Electronic key control systems record who removes a key, when, and why, eliminating the need for someone to manually maintain a key log. It also acts as a valuable repository of information.

  • Training and Mentoring: Implementing routine training for your organization’s technology and processes is crucial. Mentoring or job shadowing programs are also important knowledge preservation tactics. Pairing a younger employee with a more experienced one provides an opportunity for knowledge transfer to happen in a natural, low-pressure way.

  • Documentation: Every organization should already have a written key control policy, as well as technical documentation of how key control systems and other technology should be configured. But it’s also helpful for retiring employees to provide supplementary documentation, such as what key control reports to review and when.

How to Transfer Key Control Knowledge graphic

As the retirement wave carries seasoned employees out of your organization, make sure their valuable knowledge doesn’t leave with them. By taking a proactive approach to knowledge transfer, you’ll help ensure the continuity and security of your organization’s key control processes.

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