is a Strategic Business Imperative
Today, in our love
affair with what’s new, what’s cutting edge, and what’s technologically
cool, it’s easy to forget that knowledge also comes with experience.
It may require a few hours of e-training or a semester-long course
to learn how an energy pump operates, but it takes years and years
of experience to recognize the sounds of a pump that is not operating
properly. The only way to shorten that learning cycle is to have
someone with more experience help to accelerate learning.
youth and technological suaveness. Firms recruit new (and less
expensive) talent in the belief that that’s the way to build a competitive
edge. But companies also recruit and retain mature employees because
of respect for their knowledge. The best companies today will help
their organizations transform the way they think about all of their
employees. Each person brings different knowledge to the organization.
Each generation brings something different and valuable to your
Working with business
people across generations for many years, refer to their sharing
of knowledge and information as love, passion, or, more traditionally,
as mentoring, it repeatedly tried to foster the powerful synergistic
release of cross-generational sharing, learning, and performance.
Younger Workers Develop Their Talents
employees routinely complain of their disenchantment with
their companies as they describe the onerous demands (and
opportunities) placed on them by managers who may have confidence
in their abilities, but lack the time or skills to help them
succeed. Faced with frustration and afraid that they will
fail, many of these younger employees inform that they are
planning to move on and look for a more supportive business
environment. In fact, the average 30 - 44 year old has had
up to ten different positions.
could use their more experienced baby boomers, which have deep knowledge,
impressive networks, and broad-based business experience, to buffer
younger employees against frustration, focus on their career paths,
and find places to acquire the skills-based knowledge necessary
to succeed. To be effective, mentoring needs to be done strategically
are some benefits and guidelines about mentoring.
Provide new perspectives.
Encourage older workers to stop defining themselves in terms of
their job titles and start reflecting on skills they have built,
and knowledge that they have amassed. Today, jobs are about more
than just upward mobility. Mentors can share their vision and career
histories so that younger employees understand what they can learn
through lateral career moves and on the job experience.
Mentoring can help boomers quickly learn about other levels within
the organization. Says one mentor at a Fortune 1000 company, “As
a leader, it has helped me to see the obstacles we inadvertently
put in people’s development.” Mentoring can also help mature employees
learn from and understand other generations. For instance, younger
employees can help baby boomers with technical skills or provide
marketing insights about a new generation of buyers.
Mature workers benefit from being mentors by having the chance
to learn more about and practice listening and coaching – skills
which require maturity, confidence and experience to fully employ.
Reduce generational conflict. Most frequently reported generational
conflicts are differing expectations regarding work hours, certain
behaviors at work (e.g., use of cell phones), and acceptable dress.
Another common issue is feeling that co-workers from other generations
do not respect one another. Organizations can reduce generational
friction with effective communication, team building, mentoring
and recognizing the efforts of all workers.
transfer. Baby boomers retire; they take with them volumes of
experience and information. Good working relationships between older
and younger generations are critical in ensuring that this institutional
knowledge is not lost as mature workers retire. The greater the
mix of generations in an organization’s workforce, the more important
knowledge transfer becomes and the more powerful intergenerational
synergy can be.
may come to their new positions with little or no business-related
experience and have trouble building their own credibility and integrating
and respecting the knowledge and talent of mature subordinates.
Mentors can help these new managers develop business-related understanding
and strategize about using the talents of more experienced employees.
Here are some tips…
punish, mature employees for mentoring. To entice baby boomers
to become mentors, organizations should reward and recognize them
for their contributions. Talk up mentoring in meetings, in speeches,
in newsletters, in performance appraisal discussions and include
mentoring in corporate awards programs. And, most important, don’t
replace mature mentors with their mentees before they retire or
mentors will quickly conclude that being a mentor is a very bad
Ask mature employees about someone who enabled them to succeed.
In one study of people who had experienced effective mentoring,
half of them said the mentoring experience “changed my life.” Those
are powerful words. It is equally powerful to know that you were
the person who changed someone else’s life.
results. Study after study in which mentors and mentees are
asked how satisfied they are with the relationship report that the
mentors are more satisfied. It just feels good to help someone else.
Says one mentor; “It has been rewarding to be able to help people
at critical stages of their career by helping them analyze where
they are in their careers. Mentoring gets people in the right groove
for long term career success.”
past retirement. The trait most attributed to baby boomers
is the willingness to give maximum effort. Baby boomers are also
rated as highly results-driven, very likely to retain what they
learn; and low on their need for supervision. Many baby boomers
plan to work at least part-time past the traditional retirement
age. These characteristics show baby boomers to be eager workers
who may be well suited to be brought back as consultants and mentors
after their retirement.
The business knowledge
of 20-year-olds and that of 50-year-olds is profoundly different.
The technology facility and ability to multi-task among 20-somethings
is unparalleled and impressive. But the knowledge, experience, creativity,
and business acumen of 50-somethings is also unparalleled and equally
impressive in a very different way. Cross-generational mentoring
provides one of the most significant ways for integrating these
diverse abilities. “Think of what's stored in an 80- or a 90-year-old
mind. Just marvel at it. You've got to get out this information,
this knowledge, because you've got something to pass on. There'll
be nobody like you ever again. Make the most of every molecule you've
got as long as you've got a second to go."
Writer: Sajiri Chidgupkar Employee Relations
Manager, 3D PLM Software Solutions Ltd