Know where your SMEs are

Millennials don’t need experience or information; they just need to know where to find it

By Mike Bacidore, editor in chief

Because the next generation of workers, the millennials, prefers the ability to access information in a video format, the most efficient and productive strategy for passing on expertise could be outfitting veteran operators and technicians with video-camera-equipped hardhats and asking them to record what they’re doing, said Youssef Mestari, global strategic marketing director at Honeywell. These videos can then be used to create a library of captured knowledge for younger workers to reference after experienced employees have retired and their working expertise is gone.

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This new generation of employees has a base of knowledge without experience.

“It’s not so much about what you need to know,” explained Mestari, who led a roundtable discussion on workers at Honeywell Users Group Americas 2018 in San Antonio in June. “It’s more about where that information is. We need to enable knowledge that can be accessed from anywhere at any time.”

The ability to access information, whether it’s in written-word form or in a visual format, requires technology with the ability to connect to and deliver that content. Many companies have already equipped workers with tablets or have a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy on cell phones and other mobile devices.

“Millennials are the smartest, most dedicated generation we’ve seen,” said Mestari. “We have to put the right tools in their hands. What they want are the tools to capture and store knowledge and the ability to give that back to them how they want it. Some people like to watch information in videos. That’s the holy grail.”

Industry is looking to apply the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), giving companies an opportunity to combine tools and expertise for gains that weren’t possible before. “We’re hearing about challenges, such as reactive maintenance practices and the retirement of subject-matter experts (SMEs),” said Katie Jones, senior product line manager, Connected Performance Services, at Honeywell UOP, during her presentation. “We’re seeing a 50% loss of SMEs in the next five to 10 years. How are we going to deal with our SMEs retiring?”

The concept of using a cloud-based platform is quickly becoming the foundation for connected solutions and services that address these kinds of customer needs, providing performance through the most advanced monitoring, analytical and predictive capabilities.

This new generation of employees has a base of knowledge without experience. Unlike the existing veteran group of subject matter experts, millennials don’t need to have the experience, let alone the information. But they do need to know how to find it. That’s their work method. While most controls engineers began their careers memorizing set points and parameters, millennials just need to know how the system works and where to find the set point.

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