Over the course of my career, I have had the pleasure of having 2-3 older friends that happen to be Baby Boomers that have remained interested in helping me grow professionally to this date. It dawned on me in my late 20’s the level of sincerity and genuine nature of their dedication to helping me. When I realized what they were doing and the level of impact that this cross-generational mentoring was having in my personal and work life, I made a commitment to myself that I would “pay it forward” and be on the lookout to become a mentor to others. I love a couple of quotes I recently read in The Daily Walk Bible – “Life is a lot like tennis – the goal is to learn to serve better” and “The object of teaching is to enable those taught to get along without a teacher”.
Here’s a key component of truly effective mentoring – it’s not a one-way street. Mentoring done correctly can be mutually beneficial to individuals involved. Many in the professional world refer to it as “cross-generational mentoring.” For example, within my team at AgCareers.com, I have some Gen Y/Millennials. I think that members of that generation were early adopters of social media compared to members of the Gen X and Baby Boomer generations. I’d hate to think what the impact would have been to AgCareers.com if I had not let members of my team influence me regarding my feelings towards social media a few years ago. Cross-generational mentoring to me is simply creating a culture within a business or organization where everyone, regardless of age, can learn certain things from each other. In a study reported in the Diversity Journal, workers from across the generations (30% Gen-Y, 32.8% Gen-X, 24.1% Boomers, 4.3% Veterans), responded in a massive 75% majority that they thought a cross-generational mentoring program would be beneficial.
Below are a few advantages to consider regarding cross-generational mentoring:
You can harness older workers’ knowledge and pass it on. As Boomers near retirement age, your team is at risk of having years of wisdom and experience vanish. By establishing good mentoring relationships, there are plenty of opportunities to pass that knowledge on to the younger generations.
Younger workers can energize your older workers and boost productivity. Their energy, constant questioning and challenging of assumptions are great for improving process (assuming you are a leader open to new ideas). And if you give them the chance, the younger generation can demonstrate why they love technology so much: It often gets things done more efficiently.
You can build a stronger team. When you implement a cross-mentoring program, you are jump-starting a process that might not happen on its own. Keep in mind, many great relationships started because people were thrown together and had to make the best of it.