How Your Boomers Will Remain Relevant

Very soon, a lot of people will be exiting the workforce.

Baby boomers, or people born between 1946 and 1964 are set to retire soon. A poll done by AARP showed that 48% of companies have no intention to do any strategic planning about how this huge amount of retirement will affect their business.

When I think about this, I see the potential to miss a huge opportunity. Imagine all of the knowledge, skills, and insight this generation has. As leaders, it would be a shame to let that go to waste and profoundly foolish not to tap into that.

I don’t want to come across as being negative, and looking at baby boomers as resources to try and suck every last drop out of, but I think there is a way to get that knowledge transfer to happen. Even something as simple as building an internal Q&A forum like Yahoo Answers, to let anyone ask questions and have the boomers answer. That way everything is stored and organized in one place, and it gets people communicating. There are a lot more ideas, I actually made that one up as I was typing, but I think it’s important to try and tap into that.

48% of companies have no intention to do any strategic planning about how this huge amount of retirement will affect their business.

Mentoring Program

I really like the concept of implementing a mentorship program inside your company to have boomers really spend time with younger workers, and teach them different aspects of business, leadership, and life. One of the best examples that I can think of, is Germany’s education system.

In Germany, they have an apprenticeship program or dual system, which is a combination of apprenticeship, with part time school. The apprenticeship program in Germany is one of the main reasons they are able to stay so competitive as a country. A great book I would recommend reading is called [easyazon_link asin=”0029137055″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”achievstrate-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]Apprenticeship for Adulthood[/easyazon_link] by Stephen Hamilton, where he really breaks down how we could easily modify the German system to work in North America.

I think it would be a really interesting idea to have companies set up something similar. A few days a week, set up some time for a type of apprenticeship program, where maybe you pair up a boomer with a younger worker, or turn it into a group type setting.

Reverse Mentorship

While I’m mainly focusing on the baby boomers and the need to help guide the younger generations, there’s a ton of opportunity for the older workers to learn from the younger ones.

It’s fair to assume the younger generation is better with technology, and is much more open to things like collaboration and transparency. Understanding how to use technology, and knowing all of the different technologies available is more important than ever now because of the way the world of work is changing.

Implementing a mentorship program inside your company to have boomers really spend time with younger workers, and teach them different aspects of business, leadership, and life

One company I spoke to recently that’s doing this is Winter Wyman, a staffing agency. They do this as part of their onboarding process. As new employees join, they get paired up with older workers who can show them the ropes. This is a great way to increase employee engagement, because it gets people talking to each other and working together.

The Importance Of Transparency

Throughout all of this, one of the most important things to remember is to try and record and store all of this information and knowledge. It’s one thing to pair people up and have them teach each other, but if none of this is being stored somehow then it’s essentially meaningless. The trick is to use technology, and other innovative tools to help.

For example, you could easily use Google Hangouts to have these mentoring sessions, and record the video right away for everyone else (even future generations) to see. You could use Google Docs to take notes during a mentoring session and then have other coworkers collaboratively edit them. There are other ways of doing it too, these are only a few examples, but the secret here is to think long term.

What do you think about a mentoring program for employees? Let me know in the comments!



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Copyright: jgroup / 123RF Stock Photo

Jacob Shriar

I currently serve as the Growth Manager at Officevibe. I'm passionate about web and mobile. I love online marketing, and I have Google and Hubspot certifications to show for it. I believe that good marketing comes effortlessly through honesty, transparency, and a solid product. I'm passionate about startups and culture. It's something that I read and talk about a lot. I also believe that you should never stop learning.

  • Great article Jacob! I really think it’s a source of knowledge that shouldn’t be wasted!

  • Dennis Morris

    Great article, great ideas. As a boomer, I’ve learned many things along the way. Some personal as life lessons and others in business leadership. Teaming up with a group of younger generation people with the type of technology and media knowledge necessary to share that in a meaningful way is a powerful idea.
    The next couple of generations also have a different perspective and approach to share that has real value that we can all learn from.
    Thanks, Jacob.

  • As a 25-year mentor myself, I am all for mentoring! I wonder, however, if it wouldn’t function best as a voluntary program that is given good focus and energy, rather than a mandatory “given” for new (or any) employees. Buy-in is essential in effective mentoring. If a boomer is REQUIRED to sit and learn about new technology from a younger employee, it could actually backfire and feel like a threat on their job (i.e., “Keep up with the times, or you’re out of here!”). Similarly, a younger employee may feel it is a tedium or “going through the ropes” kind of thing unless they buy in through signing up. If a mentoring program is working the way it should, the positive talk it gets from participants will have people clamoring to sign up.

  • Steve D

    All baby boomer means is that roughly speaking there were up to a million born every year for 20 years after WW2 as opposed to the usual 700,000. As a group there is no difference between someone born in 1964 and 1965 and many are certainly not returning for another 20 years as pensions have been rendered worthless. Many of us are self employed and don’t ever imagine retiring.
    In terms of knowledge. I’ve learned amazing amounts from 20 year olds and 60 year olds and had some of my worse experiences with people of the same age. There’s no shortage of knowledge or idiocy in any age range I know of. So choose your mentors wisely.

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