Intergenerational Talent Mentoring Programs inside companies: an Idea
Background: I am a Boomer-aged entrepreneur. I work with Millennial technology entrepreneurs. As my hair gets grayer, I see a new role I am playing with my younger colleagues, one of a mentor and coach, offering opinions and guidance on more process type issues they face. It's a role I am enjoying and I think* they are too.
Observation: There is a knowledge escape in today's workplace from the departing boomer talent who are taking early retirement; Millennials may be feeling their loss in the workplace.
Research: No doubt these 2 generations have much alignment in the workplace. Ben Rosen, PhD, professor of organizational behavior for the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School, found that Baby Boomers and Millennials actually share most of the same expectations of their employers.
The idea: It would be cool for companies affected by this knowledge loss to set up alumni mentoring and coaching programs where they re-hire back select valued retirees as "Independent Contractors" to create an intergenerational mentoring and coaching program. These boomers/company alumni can take on a mentoring and coaching role to transfer their knowledge, skill set, history, relationships and authentic-cheerleading to the companies' younger talent.
Will current talent buy-in? Millennials are often characterized by their more flexible and fluid approach to work and home life. Millennial managers prefer open, collaborative and purpose-driven work environments. They have grown up with coaches (sports, music, SAT), the term itself an endearing, non-threatening one for them. Offering them "familial SME coaching and mentoring" may be seen as a trusted and legitimate resource. (The process itself may also serve as something to aspire to for these managers). Preparing for the future, Gen Z (1998 onwards) will be entering the workplace over the next few years. Gen Z tends to value, even more the importance of mentoring. From a recruiting perspective, these younger workers may find such a program in place at a company a real differentiator when choosing where to go next in their career.
The Goals of an alumni mentoring program might be:
- Increase talent engagement
- Increase talent happiness
- Increase productivity and efficiency
- Increase retention
What would these alumni coach the talent on?
- Culture: help conveying the company's culture as part of orientation or onboarding new hires, or coaching newly promoted talent who have been promoted to management on "management culture". Valued Alumni know the company culture.
- Talent skill building: suggest online classes, articles to read, how to build relationships internally, all purposed to help talent "bloom where they are planted".
- Experience: sharing the relationships retirees have with vendors/partners for talent to benefit from, act as a sounding board without judgement, have those "been there before" type of discussions - all with the goal to give history to these younger talent and helping them make wise decisions.
Maybe this is a pipe dream or, maybe it's being done already somewhere. If it does exist at some progressive company, I hope someday soon it becomes mainstream...because we gray hairs ain't getting any younger and have so much to offer others.