One of the more popular and discussed sessions at Emerson Global Users Exchange 2014 focused on working with and transferring process control knowledge to young people born in the 80s–The Millennials. The presenters were fellow “old guy” with new ideas and Emerson’s Chief Blogger Jim Cahill and a certified Millennial Danaca Jordan who is a staff engineer for Eastman Chemical. Oh, I should mention she has a BS in Chemical Engineering.

The point of the session was to present ways of communicating with (the preposition is chosen purposely) these younger engineers entering the industrial workforce. Unfortunately (but good for discussion) a couple of aging Boomers in the audience challenged the Millennials as being too shallow and deficient in critical thinking skills. Did I mention she had a BS in Chem E?

When we were young, the learning model was tell/listen. The bosses and teachers knew everything, and we were to come to the fount of wisdom and partake. I think it’s only partly because of young and technical, but also what we’ve learned about learning that there is a better way. Therefore the first point they made was that learning is a collaborative effort. “It can’t be boomer shoving things out of his brain.” The three parties to the learning environment all contribute something. The company provides tools and time; experts knowledge and direction; trainees topics and feedback. Millennials view managers as coaches and mentors rather than content experts. They view learning as a shared responsibility.

As for format of training, the (and most of us, I think) want short, accessible, searchable content. YouTube how-to videos of 5-15 minutes. By the way, they commonly skip the first 30 seconds of introduction and bio which is non value add. For example, Danaca was in the plant without the other point experts when there was a problem with a Coriolis meter. She went to YouTube, found a MicroMotion how-to video, and solved the problem. In the old days, an engineer would have fumbled around for hours trying to figure it out.

They pointed to a few resources for starters including the MicroMotion YouTube channel, OSIsoft learning channel, MIT Open Courseware.

Interaction is third principal. Use documentation that allows comments. Incorporate forums and wikis.

If you are involved with transferring knowledge to young engineers–and I hope you are–then take these lessons to heart and practice.

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