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Mentorship and Knowledge Retention: How to Retain Talent Over Generations

March 14, 2018 by Josh Hrala

When a senior member of your staff starts to transition into retired life, it can cause serious problems for your workforce. Not only is that staff member likely an expert in their field, they also have developed specific skills for their role, meaning that one of the most important things a company can do when they have leaders starting to retire is to figure out a way to retain all of that vital knowledge.

knowledge retention

Knowledge retention is super important if a company wants to continue marching steadily into the future without having to retrain the same information over and over again. Consider this: a member of your staff has been working for you for 30 years. Over the course of that time, they have developed ideas, concepts, workflows, and other job-based skill sets that may be unique to the very specific job that they perform.

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Now, if they were to suddenly retire, you may think you are fine because you have done a good job developing young talent for this very reason. Though that might be true, that younger leader is still going to be behind the more senior one because they still lack the experience that has come from actually performing the job for years on end.

With that new leader playing catch-up for the first couple of months to a year, you’re business suffers.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to because knowledge transfer – just like many other HR policies – is easy to handle if you plan ahead, crafting a surefire policy before you ever need to lean on it. Without a policy in place, you could very well forget about something like knowledge transfer until one day you desperately need it but are left with nothing.

With that said, one of the best ways for you to retain all of that knowledge is by implementing a mentorship program Specifically, a mentorship program that benefits both retirees and the younger workforce that will take over the roles.

Mentoring: An Easy Way to Develop Talent

What’s the best way to train a younger worker to make sure they can fulfill a more senior leadership role? Have them work with that person who will be leaving. That’s pure logic.

knowledge retention

By having your younger leadership work with your older leadership, you help the senior members of staff pass down their knowledge while also developing their talent for the future.

While this is a surefire way of passing down critical knowledge to new leaders, it’s also a much cheaper way to train leaders. Right now, consulting is the most common way for organizations to train and develop their talent. However, consultants can charge ridiculous rates that your organization doesn’t need to spend in reality.

Instead of taking that financial hit, just have those younger workers work with senior workers to develop them and also retain those super specific job skills that they will need to fully embrace their new role.

The good news is that mentorship can go both ways, though we never consider it like that.

Mentorship: Millennials Helping Boomers

Right now, an estimated 10,000 Baby Boomers reach retirement age every day, a trend that will likely continue for nearly the next decade. That’s a ton of people hitting 65 and gaining the ability to retire.

Now, it’s important to note that just because they have reached retirement age, it doesn’t mean that they will all retire immediately. In fact, Baby Boomers are changing the landscape of retirement by working longer and taking on full-time roles after retirement age.

Many have pointed out that Baby Boomer retirees often want exactly the same thing that Millennials have figured out long ago: a side hustle or a full-time role that adheres to their values and gives them a purpose, a second job that is more aligned with things they want to explore or have put off exploring while pursuing a different career.

This means that Baby Boomers can learn from Millennials how to start an online business, promote it with social media, find places to volunteer, and make some money from their hobbies. This list can go on and on.

knowledge retention

Millennials have been doing this well because they grew up online and have skills seemingly built into them about how to succeed online and in roles that adhere to their core values.

Many recent retirees want the same thing in a role after they retire. So, mentorship can go both ways. Well-rounded, older leaders can help younger workers develop their workplace talents and younger workers can help older workers develop the technological and job seeking skills that they are well-versed in.

By doing this, you help both parties make the transition.

This brings us to the final step that needs to happen when a retiree is about to make the leap.

Retirement Lifestyle Planning During Mentorship

While your retirees are gearing up to the make the switch, it’s important that you offer them a way to examine what they want to do after they make their exit from the company.

For far too long, retirement planning has consisted of only financial planning initiatives. As soon as we enter the workforce, we are told that we need to start saving for retirement now so that we will have a big enough nest egg to make the switch out of full time work when we reach retirement age.

However, as we said before, retirement is changing. Baby Boomers are healthier and able to work longer than previous generations, making it increasingly more important for retirees to make sure they have a lifestyle plan to enact when the switch is made too.

Retirement lifestyle planning involves working with a team of specialists to ensure that retirees have considered the social, emotional, and personal side of retirement, stretching far beyond simply saving the right amount of money to successfully step down.

You can check our retirement lifestyle tip sheet here:

retirement lifestyle planning

If you combine mentorship programs with retirement lifestyle plans, you will be able to ensure that everyone involved in this transition will be able to successfully make the switch.

New leaders will be trained by older leaders to help them perform their roles. Retirees will have the tools they need to retire successfully even if that means that they want to continue a new career elsewhere. It’s a win-win for you, the HR manager, the staff members impacted, and your organization as a whole.

Josh Hrala

Josh Hrala

Josh is an HR journalist and ghostwriter who's been covering outplacement and offboarding for over six years. Before pivoting to the HR world, he was a science journalist whose work can be found in Popular Science, ScienceAlert, The Huffington Post, Cracked, Modern Notion, and more.

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