How mentoring can solve your brain drain
There has been much talk this week about the process of passing on knowledge through the generations, from young to old. Some have rightly claimed the process as key to the nations economic recovery, whilst others have bemoaned the high drop out rate.
The feeling you get from reading these many articles is that mentoring is the sole preserve of the young, so I would like to use this article to paint a slightly different picture, for I believe mentoring is absolutely essential to solving the looming brain drain.
You see the baby boom generation are beginning to retire en masse. Around 650,000 retired this year. Over 800,000 are set to retire next year. That's a whole lot of experience departing from our companies and public services, and I think mentoring is one of the key components in ensuring that the knowledge these individuals have sticks at their organisation after they depart.
Learning across the generations
Traditionally capturing the knowledge of those departing hasn't happened an awful lot. You only have to witness the number of retirees that are hired back as consultants after their departure to see that their knowledge isn't left behind when they go.
There has been a whole lot in the management press lately about the importance of training in engaging with staff. Our research into Generation Y revealed that not only do they love professional development, they also tend to learn in a different way to older employees. Traditionally Baby Boomer employees have learnt via classroom type environments, with the learning 'sold' to them by the tutor. With Generation Y however the learning has to focus on the actual doing and the experience that comes with trying things out.
This is where mentoring plays a crucial part because it is very much on the job. If done properly this can provide incredible benefits to both mentor and mentee, and should ensure that both the explicit and tacit knowledge of the Baby Boomer sticks with the company long after they have departed.
Here is a simple four step process to getting your knowledge transfer process up and running.
1. Understand where you are - Take an audit of your people, including their age, how close they are to retirement, what skills they have, how valuable those skills are and the risk to the company should they vanish.
2. Manage your talent - Ensure that you have the right culture and environment to attract the right talent across the age span. Understand the different demands of the generations in order to attract talented youngsters, whilst also doing what you can to ensure key skills amongst your older employees are kept for as long as possible.
3. Manage your knowledge - To ensure you're not stung by retiring knowledge you need to ensure you have a good corporate memory. Knowledge comes in two kinds - explicit (documents etc.) and tacit (informal heuristics). You need to ensure you capture both.
4. Manage professional development - Make sure you have the training and mentoring processes in place so that retirements don't catch you by surprise. That way you'll have great succession plans in place.
Does your company have plans to manage retiring baby boomers?
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