Who’s the Mentor Here? A Look at Mentoring in a Multigenerational Workforce

Few would disagree that there’s a shifting generational balance in the accounting and finance industry. Still, there is likely be a multigenerational workforce for some time, as many boomers work past traditional retirement age or take on part-time roles after they retire. 

To read more about potential losses to businesses due to baby boomer retirements, see the press release we issued today

One way companies can manage work groups populated by a variety of generations — and at the same time address future leadership needs — is by giving promising individuals plenty of one-to-one contact with proven leaders in the firm. The mere fact that many boomers are staying on provides opportunities for them to coach employees from newer generations and pass on legacy knowledge.

A key way to make this happen is through well-planned mentoring programs. Effective matches are essential to the success of these programs. Those chosen to be mentors should not only have excellent interpersonal and professional skills, but also the time and interest necessary to make a difference in the role. A potential mentor may be an impressive employee, but if he or she is never available to meet with mentees, the relationship has little chance of success.

Who’s the teacher?

Recognize, too, that it’s not always the more experienced employees who are doing the mentoring these days. Although in many ways, boomer and Generation X and Generation Y employees have their own workplace attitudes and preferences, they tend to agree in some areas. In particular, they want a chance for professional growth and people they can learn from. These are both areas where a strong mentoring experience can be a win-win for your business.

To address this situation, some firms have embraced arrangements such as reverse mentoring, where Generation X and Generation Y employees take the lead in mentoring senior staff, and peer-to-peer mentoring programs. These exchanges can be very beneficial to successfully integrating all generations into a workplace. 

The mentoring arrangements you establish at your firm will vary based on the unique needs of your business and the specific skills, knowledge and experience of your employees. An example could be having an employee well-versed in social media applications mentor a colleague who needs to refine these skills. Similarly, by pairing a less-experienced employee with a veteran staff member who is not part of the worker’s immediate team may prompt the staff member to feel freer to ask questions about company processes or culture he or she might be hesitant to bring up with a direct supervisor. 


Management involvement critical to program success

While less traditional mentoring arrangements are gaining popularity, you may need to address some potential hurdles up front — such as participants’ preconceived notions about who should be in the role of “teacher” or “student” in the relationship. Clearly explain what you would like both parties to gain and encourage them to avoid stereotyping based on age or experience. In addition, have the mentor and mentee agree on whateach would like to achieve through the process and where and how often they will meet or communicate.

A strong mentoring program can help create an inviting culture where people are constantly sharing knowledge, generating ideas, and are mutually committed to building a successful company.

Have you ever had a mentor? What was the experience like? Tell us in the comments below.

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