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Mentorship and knowledge transfer between Baby Boomers and Millennials

You've heard it before: Millennials are set to take over the workplace. Wherever you turn, there are more and more young employees. Millennials are the largest generation of the workforce and there are plenty of them who still wait to join the employee's lifestyle.

At the same time, the other big generation — the Baby Boomers — is irreversibly approaching retirement. With not enough Generation Xers to fill all the managers' shoes after Baby Boomers had retired, Millennials will have their fare (?) share of managerial positions to fill on their own.

A huge knowledge transfer

We are probably witnessing the biggest wave of professional knowledge transfer ever. Baby Boomers are generally like a goldmine of information for any of their younger colleagues or subordinates. Therefore, it's in all companies best interest that Baby Boomers share their vast knowledge and that Generation Xers and Millennials absorb that knowledge and continue using it.

This inevitably involves some sort of training.

But training Millennials — in the traditional way — is like herding cats. No two cats are the same, even though they have cute whiskers, fluffy tails, and they both seem to be ignoring your presence most of the times. The same stands true with Millennials.

You can't expect great training results by shoving a bunch of them in the same conference room, and feeding them text-heavy, bullet-listed slides. You need to reach out to them individually, offer a personalized learning experience, and expand it beyond the training room walls.

Millennials are eager to learn; they just don't like being trained the same way Baby Boomers were trained when they were young. The world is changing fast. Technology advances faster than ever.

Big data can bridge this generational gap in the workplace and make it not only possible, but also successful.

Mentorship — a necessary piece in the knowledge transfer puzzle

However, big data alone can't do the trick. People work with people, not just with numbers. This human touch, to some extent, can also be called mentorship.

Mentorship is an ongoing relationship between usually a more skilled person and a less experienced employee. It focuses on the long-term and it covers the professional development of the mentee: how to manage a certain business, or how to improve certain business metrics.

What makes mentorship a very hot topic though is the fact that it doesn't stop at the end of one's professional life. A mentor will also teach the mentee how to address certain people in certain situations and how to be a better person in general. This means mentorship also focuses on the personal development of the young business person.

The person being mentored is in control of the relationship, from setting the regularity (or lack of) any schedule, to the nature (usually informal) of any meeting with the mentor. The mentee and his/her career come first, and any exact business problem or task comes after that. The mentor only guides the mentee on tackling the issue, by asking questions and giving advice, rather than imposing one way or another of solving it.

The retention and applicability rates of a mentorship are probably higher than those of any training program. The problem is, you can't really measure them. Even a business LMS with xAPI integration can't register all the learning that happens during mentorship meetings, unless the mentee manually inputs his/her experiences in the system. This is because, more often than not, the mentor is not the direct manager of the mentee and sometimes has nothing to do with the latter's company.

Any team is made up of people, and people develop organic relationships, within and outside it. This encourages knowledge transfer and makes the team stronger. Measure what it can be measured and let any mentoring relationship take its course. It will always impact the bottom line in a company, even though it's harder to prove it.

For any thoughts or suggestions, the comments section is yours.