generational shift

Mentoring and Training: Managing the Generational Shift in Today’s Workforce

We’re now making workforce history as Millennials have become the dominant demographic in the US, outnumbering Baby Boomers 80 million to 76 million. There is a resulting generational shift in the workforce currently underway, and gathering steam.

However, as Baby Boomers delay retirement in increasing numbers, friction is occurring as growing numbers of Millennials enter the workforce and find themselves at odds with their Boomer managers and Gen X counterparts. In some cases, they’re competing for the same positions, bringing a different point of view and different work ethic with them.

The trouble is, Millennials and that in-between generation, Generation X, respond to very different employment stimuli and incentives than Baby Boomers.

How organizations respond to these differences can have a major impact on workplace efficiency, compatibility and productivity — even success and failure.

There are three key areas of impact affected by this generational shift:

New Business Development

Rapidly-evolving technology has fundamentally changed the business development process.

Rapidly-evolving technology has fundamentally changed the business development process.

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Baby Boomer managers — used to cutting their sales and marketing teeth on cold calls, paid advertising campaigns and face-to-face networking — may be puzzled by Millennials and their reliance on digital tools for peer-to-peer connectivity, business research and outreach in general. Gen Xers, as a sort of “bridging” generation, straddle the traits of Boomers and Millennials.

Research into the marketing tactics used by high-growth firms (firms with an average yearly growth rate of at least 20 percent) suggests the most efficient approach to business development includes both traditional and online marketing techniques.

Figure 1 is a list of the tools and techniques high-growth firms found most powerful (compared to their no-growth brethren).

Each generation needs to be comfortable in all of these media — or work together to ensure they “divide and conquer” to apply their generational-based skills across the marketing spectrum.

Talent Acquisition

Different generations look in different places for job opportunities.

Different generations look in different places for job opportunities.

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As you can see in Figure 2, Boomers favor networking and personal contacts to make employment connections. There is a noticeable decrease in the reliance on traditional networking among Gen Xers and Millennials.

If only 69.6 percent of Gen Xers rely on networking for new job opportunities, where else are they looking? Our research shows they are doing their own research by vetting potential employers through industry publications. They are also more active on Facebook than other generations when it comes to their job search.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, illustrated in Figure 4, Millennials rely on general job-listing websites and web search to find interesting positions and firms. They are also likely to attend job fairs.

So, what is the takeaway for a hiring manager? Make sure your recruiting platforms and techniques target the talent you want to hire.

Talent Retention and Development

Understanding what each generation values in an employer is important. While you will find similar needs across the generations, there are some slight differences that can help you attract the right talent and keep the employees you value most.

Understanding what each generation values in an employer is important.

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For example, Figure 5 shows Boomers want to work for a respected firm, while Gen Xers and Millennials value personal brand and recognition of their contributions. These are important differences to consider when recruiting and developing talent.

Coping with Generational Shift: The Importance of Training

Training and mentoring are crucial to addressing the three key areas of generational shift impact.

Training and mentoring are crucial to addressing the three key areas of generational shift impact.

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Training provides a path to career advancement that equips firms to attract and retain talent while giving employees the skills they need to become even more valuable and productive members of their team. The greatest generational shift here is between Boomers and Millennials, so we will focus on them.

A recent Deloitte Millennial Survey revealed almost three-quarters of Millennials say their leadership skills are not being fully developed. It also found those intending to stay with their current employer for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor than not.

But mentoring doesn’t just benefit the Millennial — it’s a great way to train Baby Boomers, too. When you match middle management and senior leaders with younger employees, the learning process flows both ways.

Millennials pick up much-needed leadership and productivity skills while, in the process of mentoring, they often school both Boomers and Gen-Xers in modern technology, such as social media and web-based collaboration.

Some firms actually institute formal “reverse mentoring” initiatives in which more senior executives are mentored by entry to mid-level employees on topics such as communication and computing technology, social media and current trends.

As skills are exchanged through mentoring and training, the organization becomes more efficient.

Embracing Generational Shift

Even business development can be improved as the different generations develop a better understanding of each other, which enables them to better understand the channels and processes in which others may excel.

Better communication creates better opportunities to connect, promoting dialog, creating leads and growing sales. This is what Boomers might call a classic “win-win.”

Each generation has something to teach the others.

Each generation has something to teach the others.

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Older employees are able to improve their collaborative skills and productivity by familiarizing themselves with technology, while Millennials can gain experience and critical “tribal knowledge” from Boomers and Gen Xers who have years on the job. Millennials also can feel more valuable and connected to the organization through their reverse mentoring, encouraging them to stay in their jobs and continuing to contribute.

And in the end, everyone wins.



Lee Frederiksen

Lee W. Frederiksen, Ph.D., is Managing Partner at Hinge, the leading branding and marketing firm for the professional services. Hinge conducts groundbreaking research into high-growth firms and offers a complete suite of services for firms that want to become more visible and grow.

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