Case Study – Department of Veterans’ Affairs - Equipping workers with the skills to share their knowledge
Understanding the age diverse profile of their workforce, DVA recognised the changing demographic within the Rehabilitation and Compensation team—older workers were approaching retirement age, and new workers joining were attempting to integrate into the team and get up to speed. DVA responded by offering older workers coaching and mentoring training to help them share their knowledge and support younger workers transition into the team. Organisation benefits are now starting to be realised—knowledge is being transferred between the generations and the team culture is changing. There is still a lot to learn and DVA are evaluating the program and sharing successes and challenges with other areas of the organisation—they recognise it’s a work in progress, but one that they’re determined to build on.
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) have long serving workers who feel passionate about the work they do. Many have a connection with their work through their families and community – they know someone who is serving, or veterans who have served Australia’s national interest by defending our nation or participating in peacekeeping operations.
The Department has many functions, and an important area is the Rehabilitation and Compensation area. The work undertaken in the team is detailed. They deal with complex cases, three Acts, and over time, long standing workers have learned the intricacies of the legislation. It is valuable knowledge.
By understanding the profile of their workforce, DVA recognised the changing demographic within the team—older workers were approaching retirement age, and new workers joining were attempting to integrate into the team and get up to speed.
Knowledge shared is knowledge retained
The changing demographic of the team meant that new comers would have to find their way, learn on the job, and from each case they dealt with. DVA provided training but they recognised there was a better way—enabling older workers to share their knowledge, mentor younger workers, and coach them through their cases.
Many of the older workers were seasoned; they were accomplished in their area of expertise and as a result were often overlooked for training because they weren’t looking for a promotion or to diversify their skills. DVA recognised the importance of ongoing education to equip experienced team members and leaders with the skills to assist younger workers learn on the job through each case and particularly by tapping into the experience of their peers.
DVA has since trialled a four day coaching and training workshop, with supplementary learning delivered through tele-classes, with accreditation awarded after the successful completion of all modules—a process that would take at least three months.
By investing in workers’ experience, and giving them the skills to transfer their knowledge, the team culture is starting to change. Knowledge is being shared, and while the program has had its challenges, DVA are seeing the potential of formal mentoring programs to encourage knowledge transfer.
DVA continue to evaluate the program. The first evaluation was positive and DVA plans more coaching workshops in the future.
Mentoring makes sense
Mentoring is a relationship that gives people the opportunity to share their professional and personal skills and experiences, and to grow and develop in the process. It makes good business sense. The DVA case study demonstrates the effectiveness of mentoring and coaching to harness the experience of older workers, retain valuable corporate knowledge and transfer it to younger generations.
For more information—Investing in Experience
For more information about the value of mentoring, lifelong learning and creating alternative and enriched work roles for older workers, read the Investing in Experience: Working for Today and Tomorrow guide (PDF, 2.0 MB).
About the Department of Veterans’ Affairs
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs mission is to support those who serve or have served in defence of our national and commemorate their service and sacrifice. See the the Department of Veterans' Affairs website for more information.
Comcare is working with organisations to share better practice. Comcare thanks DVA for sharing their experience and for highlighting the importance of lifelong learning to create dynamic and thriving workplaces where everyone is valued and supported in their roles.