By Gen Y representative Katie Konrath
At Sarah’s workshop a couple weeks ago, someone brought up a really interesting way that a company is encouraging older workers to pass along their knowledge to younger generations.Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of the company. I was so impressed by their story though, that I’m going to write about it anyways!
This company realized that a large majority of their workforce were Baby Boomer employees who were fast approaching retirement. Those workers held valuable knowledge gained from years of working in the field – knowledge that their younger workers simply didn’t have time to learn before the Boomer retirement exodus.As the company operated in an industry with a high learning curve, losing a major amount of their experienced workers would be devastating.
So, rather than panicking, the company figured out how to motivate older workers to pass on their knowledge to newer employees. They had learned that their Boomer employees looked forward to being able to travel after retirement – and in response, the company created an incentive program for Boomers.By developing ways to pass on their skills and knowledge – through workshops, etc – the Boomers earned travel credits. After holding several sessions to teach younger workers, a Boomer would have enough credits to go somewhere interesting (and a management that encouraged them to enjoy the trip).
To me, that sounds like an excellent way to handle different generations in the workplace. Xers and Yers become more engaged in the company because they’re learning valuable information that will help them in their future careers. They also get to see how much the Boomers know, and learn to view those older workers as mentors and teachers.Boomers not only benefit because the company is paying for them to enjoy themselves, they also feel validated that what they know is really valuable. And, younger workers look up to them because they realize how much the Boomers actually know.Of course, the company also benefits enormously from this. Their younger workers learn directly from their older workers – who are clamoring for an opportunity to teach. Respect rises in the workplace as the different generations interact constantly with each other. And both groups stay in the workplace longer: the Boomers because they don’t have to retire to travel, and the Gen Xers and Yers because they’re learning valuable skills.
This is the kind of program that I think more companies should be doing. Instead of mediating conflicts between the generations, encourage them to learn from each other. Then, make sure they do so by providing incentives for reaching out and sharing information.There would probably be much less conflict between the generations if companies regularly did this!
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