Baby Boomers, Millennials and the Value of Mentorship

Passing knowledge from one generation to the next is essential with the massive shift in demographics in today’s business world. Let's take a look at this latest trend.

June 8, 2017 – Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers in the U.S. as the largest living generation, according to population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Defined as those born roughly between 1983 and 2000, Millennials are poised to make up a majority of the global workforce by 2020. One result has been increased mentoring between Millennials and Baby Boomers, which many see as an effective way to impart knowledge from one generation to the next.

“While that’s certainly a benefit, there are many more advantages that you might not consider when pairing off your seasoned employees with promising young talent in your organization,” said Mike McDonough, CEO of Chicago-based executive recruiting firm General Search & Recruitment.

Sally Stetson, co-founder and principal of executive recruiter Salveson Stetson Group, agreed. “Companies would be wise to engage Baby Boomers and pair them with Millennials for more mentoring opportunities,” she said. Likewise, she noted, Baby Boomers can also be mentored by Millennials in technology initiatives or social media.

“Mentorship is always important no matter the generation,” said Smooch R. Reynolds, global investor relations and communications practice group leader with DHR International. Offering advice and receiving advice, she said, both depend on the same human quality – the ability to be neutral. “The success of delivering advice wholly depends on how an individual ‘sets-up’ and delivers the message. The recipient of that advice will only ‘hear’ it if it is communicated in such a way that it will resonate effectively.”

Mr. McDonough said paying closer attention and tapping into these cross-generational groupings can benefit all concerned.

Revitalized Boomers

Most Baby Boomers want more than to simply coast into retirement. “They want new challenges and experiences to accompany them through the twilight of their careers,” Mr. McDonough said. “Becoming a mentor to a younger worker offers leadership, mentoring and coaching opportunities for these more experienced workers.” They will be testing a new set of skills, he said, and benefit from a renewed sense of purpose because they will be molding younger members to the firm’s workforce.

“This will help your veteran employees feel valued and challenged, even if they’ve been in the same role with your company for years,” Mr. McDonough said. “By expanding their role and valuing their leadership abilities, you could retain them for a few more productive years before they head to retirement.”

The Value of Mentorship

In this seventh episode of our 10-part podcast series, ‘Working with Millennials,’ we feature another highly informative Q&A with Smooch Reynolds, DHR International’s global investor relations and communications practice group leader. According to Ms. Reynolds, the transfer of knowledge through mentoring is a vital part to the success of any business. To that end, Millennials and Baby Boomers are establishing important work partnerships. Listen Now.

Tech Training

But it will be more than the Millennials alone who will be learning from the mentorships. With technology rapidly evolving, Baby Boomers stand to gain from interacting with a digital native on a day-to-day basis. “Millennials bring an inherent understanding of IT and mobile tech to the workforce that most Boomers and Gen X-ers are lacking,” Mr. McDonough said. “Imagine how much more productive and efficient your Baby Boomers could be if they knew all the tools and resources that have evolved in the past few years?” From mobile apps and social media, to simpler things like email tricks and Excel training, making more people in an office setting tech savvy is never a bad idea.

“I think any time two generations can exchange their unique ‘secret sauce’ to success, it becomes a mutually beneficial relationship,” said Ms. Reynolds. “Certainly, the Millennials can offer a tremendous amount of knowledge and insight about the impact of the digital world, while the Baby Boomers can offer a little coaching about the most effective way to build relationships across generations.”

Millennial Retention

Studies show that most Millennials will hold four to six jobs by the time they are 30. And the reason goes beyond laziness or a lack of commitment: Most young professionals emerge from college with more skills and ambition than ever before, but without training and mentoring from their employer, they may feel underutilized and undervalued. “For most young professionals, it is about figuring out where their passions intersect with a specific type of work,” Ms. Reynolds said. That really has not changed in a few generations, she added.

Creating a Millennial Feedback Loop In the Workplace
Millennials are a generation that wants positive feedback immediately and to be making forward momentum in their lives at all times. They demand a ‘feedback loop’ that is different than what managers have been expected to provide in the past.

“So when another company shows interest, they won’t think twice about making the jump for what they see as a better opportunity,” Mr. McDonough said. “Pairing young, ambitious employees with Baby Boomers, especially those on an executive level, will make Millennials feel more in tune, valued and aware of where they could go in your company. Plus, exposing your senior leaders to fresh faces could help your team gain insight into new ideas and career paths for your next wave of talent.” And, he acknowledged, we can all benefit from training people, because so many companies neglect that aspect of employee development. “That only leads to concerning and costly talent gaps down the line,” he said.

According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials are looking for companies that place a premium on career development, whether it’s a focus on mentorship providing continued training or education opportunities. Companies that provide these options for career growth may be more likely to attract and keep Millennials for the long haul.

“Companies should have laser sharp focus on those whom they want to keep, why, and chart a path to keep them interested, and let go of those who are still trying to figure their own path out,” Ms. Reynolds said. “Careers and lives are journeys, not ‘one and done’ transactions. The Millennials seem to be very comfortable about the journey and its unknown elements, which I admire and respect.”

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; Chase Barbe, Managing Editor; and Andrew Mitchell, Podcast Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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