04 Feb 2020

Intergenerational Mentoring to Retain Baby Boomer Legacy

Mentoring, Baby boomers, Millenials
Intergenerational Mentoring to Retain Baby Boomer Legacy

With over two million Baby Boomers expected to retire from the Australian workforce in the coming decade, organisations need to prepare for a way to retain their expertise and knowledge. Art of Mentoring conducted 6 focus groups and a follow-up survey with over 300 participants across three generations to understand possible approaches to this. The findings of the study recommend an Intergenerational Mentoring program to do so.

Below are some factors that organisations need to consider while setting up an intergenerational mentoring program.


GENERATIONAL STEROTYPES

Media hype around generational differences has led to prevalence of stereotypes. A closer look at these stereotypes reveals that there’s little empirical data to support them.  Differences exist but aren’t in accordance with popular press assumptions. Evidence backed differences that are worth noting are varying levels of soft skills and affinity with technology.

Studies show that Millennials lack soft skills like effective communication, relationship building and critical thinking which traces back to their use of and comfort with technology. This leads to the natural assumption and pretext that older generations aren’t as comfortable with technology. This though may not be true as use of technology could be based on their attitude and affinity for it rather than their capability.  
 

View on significance of technology:

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GENERATIONAL SIMILARITIES

Survey participants acknowledged that despite differences, all generations work together productively. They attributed this to the fact that there are greater generation similarities than differences and mentoring needs across generations don’t vary much. However, when asked to describe each generation, the influence of stereotypes became clear.
 

All groups associated each Generation with certain attributes:

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To address biases, mentoring program participants should understand the other person’s history and explore the similarities and differences instead of being influenced by stereotypes. A mentoring relationship should be based on an understanding of the cohort’s attitudes, behaviours, experiences, what they’ve learned and how this learning can be used.

 

EXPECTATIONS FROM MENTORING

Individuals across generations have similar expectations of mentoring. All participants wanted  

  • A different perspective and an idea sounding board
  • Access to Mentor’s experience, guidance and advice
  • Networking



 Differences:

EXPECTATIONS.jpg

Participants shared how they could contribute to mentoring:

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THE NEED FOR IMMEDIATE INTERGENERATIONAL MENTORING WITH BABY BOOMERS

55% of participants weren’t aware of any measures their organisations had to capture the knowledge of departing Boomers. Setting up a mentoring program is imperative for Boomers to meaningfully engage with younger colleagues.
 
The Baby Boomer Mentor conversation should begin with identifying differences and similarities and agreeing upon:

  • Communication media preferences like face to face, phone, text, email or a combination
  • Conversation etiquettes pertaining to planning, note taking, documentation and follow ups
  • Expectation of Mentee and Mentor roles, where a Mentor isn’t didactic but uses his/her experience to steer a Mentee’s discovery towards solving his/her problems 


MILLENNIAL MENTORING DOS AND DONTS

It’s tempting to give into the Millennial stereotype that they expect everything fast, online, tech–enabled and informal. There’s no evidence to support this. Millennials are likely to prefer face to face interactions as much as other generations.

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GENERATION X AS THE ‘BRIDGING GENERATION’

As the bridging generation, Gen X can deal with the technology gap and bridge the divide between Boomers and Gen Y. They are well placed to receive Boomer wisdom and provide better mentorship to Millennials and younger generations. Generation X has been reported as feeling like the “missed generation”—overlooked after decades of adapting and juggling as their agile and driven younger colleagues advance quickly in their careers.
 

RECIPROCATION

Participants reported Boomers seeking advice of younger colleagues, especially about technology but didn’t see value in formal programs where Boomers were mentees (“reverse mentoring”). However, they were open to ‘reciprocal mentoring’. In reciprocal mentoring, two people work together through a mentoring process where they both take on the roles of Mentor and Mentee. Participants take on both roles, or each person taking a primary role as Mentor or Mentee but being willing to exchange roles from time to time. To some extent, reciprocal mentoring often happens naturally in a strong mentoring alliance.
 

KEEPING MENTORING REAL

Myths of generational stereotypes have led to real mentoring being compromised in favour of “flash mentoring”, “speed mentoring” or “just–in–time mentoring”— suggested ways to engage Millennials.
 
In an increasingly fast paced world, human connection of mentoring has become more important than ever. A successful mentoring relationship needs to provide a Mentee with time and space to stop, reflect, see new perspectives and develop creative solutions – something that can’t happen in a ten–minute coffee catch–up.
 

Learn more about AIPM’s mentoring program here.



 



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WRITTEN BY: ART OF MENTORING