We are standing in an extremely unique triangle of three generations converging into the workplace simultaneously. The ingenuity of the technically savvy Millennials, the hardworking steadfast Generation X, and knowledgeable stability of the Baby Boomers. A big question in the HR profession today is “how do we leverage the knowledge of the boomers, as they transition out of our organization, to help develop future leaders?”
It’s clear that there is value to gain by soaking up every ounce of experience of the boomers to ensure younger generations understand the groundwork and culture that they have created. In understanding how important this is, it becomes the responsibility of organizations to recognize and foster the growth of needed enablement programs. They are facing the loss of valuable business insight and time-tested practices that impact the ability for the future of their workforce to innovate, expand and build upon the current infrastructure. Yet even with recognizing the obvious, fact proven, I still see many organizations failing to miss the mark. With thousands in this generation retiring daily, there is only one shot at executing knowledge transfer before the boomers become obsolete in the workforce.
The boomers are likely the last generation we will see have their careers been “born, raised, and retired” within the same company – there is something to be said for loyalty. Some view the generational differences as obstacles or conflict to overcome in order to find cohesion, and technology may be the biggest culprit in creating larger gaps in those entering and leaving the workforce. However, those with a keen vision view this as opportunity. The elements which likely cause conflict can be easily transformed into priceless learning experiences with an investment in internal education and a deep understanding of how generational learning styles and preferences are unique to each group.
It’s the learning that lies outside of the formal training sessions that often defines culture and emotionally engages or distances individuals from their work. Integrating methodologies to share experiences happening over the span of decades is vital, such as created processes and internal cultural etiquette. Again, I am referring to the informal teachings that are passed down by true mentors. This is where gaining buy-in and appropriately motivating all levels of the organization comes into play, from those planning the programs, those providing the mentoring, and those learning. A true investment in incentivizing more experienced generations to provide a legacy cannot be bought in the same way as the promise of those absorbing and utilizing the intelligence.
My own father, self-proclaimed as “one of the last dinosaurs” left in his organization let me sit down and pick his brain, providing great insight to the topic (full interview can be read online in HRO Today at: http://www.hrotoday.com/content/5197/preparing-boom). After hearing the perspective right from the “dinosaur’s mouth,” it echoed my sentiments that this is such a crucial time for organizations to strategically plan for knowledge transfer and mentoring programs.