By Rex P. Gatto Ph.D
As a Boomer mentor, if you wonder why Xers and Yers don't seem to be willing to work past 5 p.m., or that some of your staff mysteriously quit without much explanation, then you're still adjusting to the attitudes of Generation X and Y.
Such adjustment is certainly to be expected, considering the differing work ethics among younger generations. Gen X works to live, not lives to work, which is pretty much the opposite of the thoughts and business strategies by which Baby Boomers and older generations (Builders) worked and lived.
But as those Boomers approach retirement, a significant skilled worker shortage is expected, which means that understanding, guiding and developing Gen X and Y is an absolute necessity to creating a firm legacy.
The X and Y generations of workers bring indispensable skills to the table, especially in terms of creativity, versatility and technological dexterity and acumen. Highly educated, they also are expected to have a strong, broad-based knowledge of business.
Mentoring young professionals is going to be a challenge and working cooperatively with them to maintain their energy and enthusiasm is the key to success.
Mentoring (coaching) helps staff (mentees/protégés) by giving them the opportunity to discuss their thoughts, personal and business strategies, decision-making processes and issues with an experienced businessperson and listener.
Ultimately, the firm is strengthened through the mentoring development process as it supports the growth of staff through a better understanding of themselves and the world of business.
All levels of people within the firm—from the partners to the newest staff –should take advantage of the mentoring process.
A mentor can support and help the mentee grow, thereby positively influencing their career. As new staff are assigned a mentor, so should all people within the firm as they are promoted to take on wider scopes of responsibility.
It is important to assign a mentor to staff as they progress through the firm to ensure they have an advocate mentor to guide and support them through a developmental process. This mentoring process needs to include partners in charge of offices, managing partners and partners in firms so that people at the highest level can problem-solve and be inspirational leaders.
The business reason for mentoring is to retain, develop and promote the right people. We have all heard the adage that people are our greatest asset, but surely even greater is the retention of the right people.
Mentoring is a process of an experienced person, probably a Boomer or Generation Xer, working with a less experienced person (Generation X or Y). Mentors need to understand the difference in each of the three generations (Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y) in the workplace today.
Mentors and mentees differ not only by personality, gender, needs and wants, but also by generation. Mentee thoughts, strategies and issues are greatly influenced by these factors. Males and females think and communicate differently, as has been highlighted in many research studies and books. Do differences in generation have as much of an impact on employee performance as do the other factors?
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the understanding of the experiences, work styles and characteristics of the differing generations can aid mentors to increase the chances of success in mentoring, and thereby, increase productivity and profit.
Through mentoring, the goal is to develop an understanding of the different talents and identities to retain and develop professionals who will carry the leadership of the workplace for future staff.
A systematic and developmental approach through mentoring can be successful, not by shaping the next generation in our likeness, but rather by supporting the emergence of their talents and gifts.
Mentors will be able to do this through confidence-building in Generations X and Y while also guiding the development of creative thinking, creative problem solving and effective and appropriate communication skills.
All the generations have to understand the reasons behind their differences and celebrate those differences in the workplace.
While Boomers want a more formal, documented review process, Xers and Yers are more interested in development. Simply put, X and Yers have to be more aware when it comes to communication, and Boomers have to be open to new ideas and give more frequent mentoring feedback.
To meet the needs of the mentees is the mentors' job as they are the guides on the career paths of the mentees. It is the mentors' job to maintain a positive attitude and direction in the career development of the mentees.
Rex P. Gatto, Ph.D. is founder and president of Gatto Associates, LLC, a consulting firm dedicated to helping people in the workplace enhance productivity. He is the author of five books, including, "Mentoring Process for CPAs." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.