Mentoring in the New Economy

Employee mentoring is beneficial to every employee’s career development, but some pitfalls have arisen.

“Accustomed to being the center of attention, boomers are having trouble passing the baton. Gen-Xers question whether older people have much to teach them” – Jeffrey Zaslow, Wall Street Journal, June 5, 2003

There can often be much uncertainty in the more senior generations about job security. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, “Moving on: Don’t trust anyone under 30; Boomers struggle with their new role as mentor,” many older workers and their junior counterparts are having difficulty forming rewarding mentoring bonds. Experienced workers fear that if the economy stagnates, their protégés will be knowledgeable enough to assume their positions (and less tenured employees are paid lower salaries too). If organizations do not emphasize that mentoring junior employees is part of their responsibilities, many will choose to avoid this mutually beneficial tool.

Though the current crop of seasoned workers may fear becoming obsolete, the next generation needs to benefit from their experiences to have a comprehensive understanding of the organization’s goals. After boomers retire, Generations X and Y will be left to fill the void. Unless an organization recognizes the relationship between successful mentoring and long-term growth, recruiting costs for qualified replacements will soar. In high performing firms, productive mentoring relationships help the organization to identify and retain future leaders.

New Employee Mentoring Methods

An employee mentoring program that does not train experienced workers how to mentor protégés will probably be doomed. The role of mentor differs from that of a management role by focusing on empowering, guiding, and listening rather than hands-on problem solving. Additionally, mentoring relationships that pair females and minorities with experienced male executives are proven to provide firms with seasoned and diverse senior-level employees in the future. The mentoring relationship, carefully selected, should focus on career-development, morale and continuous learning that includes technical and leadership behaviors that will bolster your company’s retention rates. Mentors are in the unique position to shape their protégés’ attitudes and perceptions toward the organization. Modeling appropriate behavior to protégés (such as how to manage clients) and explaining how their work impacts the organization’s accomplishments. Illustrating how specific knowledge, skills, and abilities, acquired during their tenure at the organization, benefits their careers.


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