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“Back in my day”: Cross-generational mentoring, necessary?

It’s almost a rite of passage, that every generation laments the demise and failings of the next.

Yet, never before has there been such a rapid period of such rapid technological change. Generations Y and Z are now synonymously known as digital natives, not without reason.

In a new white paper released by The Executive Connection (TEC), Finding the Gold in Silver Hairthe key generational challenges facing SMEs are presented.

“Employers and organisations with multigenerational workforces need to think about how they can build engagement, understanding and productivity across the generations. Cross-generational mentoring can be a great way to do it, as it recognises that both older and younger generations can teach and learn from each other,” Nigel Stoke, TEC Chair said.

Unlike traditional top-down mentoring, cross-generational mentoring involves pairing a person from one generation with a person from a different generation with a goal of mutual learning and growth.

“This form of mentoring can be very useful, as having different generations working together – but using different languages, behaviours and value sets – can be very challenging for an organisation,” Mr Stoke said.

It’s not just communicating to each other within the business that presents a challenge to management, it’s also about training younger generations to communicate with an ageing customer base.

“Particularly in a service business, customers need to be able to relate with the employees servicing their requirements. This means employees must have the necessary skills to readily build trust and empathise with the needs of older generations. As many younger employees have had limited face-to-face interaction with older people, this is a skill area they may need to improve,” Mr Stoke added.

What’s more, improving marketing communications will become an important part of bridging the age gap between an SME’s staff and its customers.

“Businesses need to ensure the marketing and communications about their products and services are resonating with all the potential customer segments. Just as many younger consumers no longer watch television, not everyone uses social media,” Mr Stoke said.

Tips for successful cross-generational mentoring:

1. Ensure both senior managers and mentors are motivated and committed to developing the skill base of participating employees.

2. Establish clear goals and a strong purpose for the mentoring program at the start and communicate these regularly to the participants.

3. Ensure the mentor’s skills, knowledge and abilities are carefully matched to the mentee’s professional and personal developmental needs and goals.

4. Foster a mentoring culture within the organisation that encourages the investment of sufficient time and effort.

5. Regularly track the progress of the mentoring program against its goals.

6. Gain regular feedback on the progress of the mentoring process.

7. Evaluate both the mentor and mentee to foster accountability on both sides.

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Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie is the editor-at-large of Dynamic Business. Stephanie brings with her a passion for journalism, business, and new ideas. On her days off, you might find her reading a book on the beach.

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