With more and more SME businesses facing the challenge of successfully managing a workforce spanning several generations, the usage of development tools such as cross generational mentoring needs to be expanded to foster improved generational understanding and relationships.

“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.

“Cross-generational mentoring facilitates knowledge sharing and also improves the interpersonal development of both participants and their ability to work and communicate effectively with people from another generation.”

SMEs grappling with changing markets and an ageing customer base can also use this development tool to create strategies and plans for the future.

“Pairing employees and managers from different generations can work really well, as they learn from each other and often come up with innovative, age appropriate ways to develop and market products and services targeted to different population segments,” he said.

The technique can also help strengthen the organisation’s knowledge base. “Successful cross-generational mentoring requires both the mentors and business leaders to take responsibility for retaining the knowledge of current employees and advancing the organisation’s next generation of leaders,” Mr Stoke said

Cross-generational mentoring is one of the strategies explored in the new TEC White Paper, Finding the gold in silver hair, which examines the challenges and opportunities SMEs face from an ageing population.

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.

Note to Editors:

TEC White Paper: http://www.tec.com.au/resources/tec-white-papers/

The Executive Connection (TEC) delivers standout mentorship, peer connection and world-class resources to business leaders and owners in New Zealand and Australia.

Through its affiliation with Vistage International Inc., TEC members have access to over 17,000 business leaders and owners in 15 countries across the world.