Bridging the Generational Gap at Work

December 07, 2016
bridging the generation gap
The term “mentoring” has always conjured up pictures of wise, older sages acting in the role of mentor as they impart wisdom and knowledge to the younger, less experienced mentee.

This model doesn’t translate to today’s workplace. You have at least three – and maybe four – generations working together. If we’re going to bridge the generation gap, we have to consider how well those generations are working together and communicating with each other in our workplaces.

The biggest questions we need to ask are:

  1. How can you ensure that leadership skills, competencies, and behaviors that are vital to your organization’s growth are instilled in new learners?
  2. How well do Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Z communicate and work together on the same team, or in the same working environment?
  3. How can you leverage each generation’s strengths and experiences to maximize employee engagement and development?

Bridging the Generation Gap with Mentoring

Today’s mentors and mentees have less rigid roles, and are not constrained by age or generation – only experience. Looking at mentoring this way means throwing off our old and outdated perceptions and misconceptions regarding the concepts of mentoring.

Mentoring is the use of an experienced individual (mentor) to teach and train someone with less knowledge or experience (mentee) in a given area. Mentoring is a dynamic association between an individual who needs to learn and another who is willing to help and guide the learner.

A mentor is an individual with the experience, knowledge, and/or skills of a specific content area who is able, willing, and available to share this information with another individual.

A mentee is an individual who seeks experience, knowledge and/or skills in a specific area and who looks to another individual(s) to gain that which is lacking.

There’s absolutely nothing saying that the mentor must:

  • be older than the mentee
  • be at a higher job grade level or title than the mentee
  • have been with the organization longer than the mentee
  • have a higher academic degree or certification title than the mentee

The mentor simply must have a certain knowledge and/or experience to share with the mentee who needs this knowledge or experience.

Traditionally, mentor-mentee pairs were matched on the “top down” theory. The mentor was always at a higher job grade level or title than the mentee.  The mentee felt secure that they were gaining exposure to individuals that could have a positive influence in their career and upward vertical movement within the organization. 

This focus, although still valuable, is now a small segment of how the concept of mentoring can and should be used.

What possibilities do you see for your workplace today – or even for the workforce at large?

Learn more in our article Mentoring for Knowledge Transfer.

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