How Mentoring Can Plug the Brain Drain

Randy Emelo
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Randy Emelo

Three Ways to Use Mentoring to Stop Brain Drain

Stop Brain Drain with MentoringAn estimated 10,000 Baby Boomers reach retirement age every day, according to the Pew Research Center. How much of your workforce could potentially retire any day now? Are you prepared to lose them and all of the knowledge they have (while simultaneously trying to fill their jobs with people who are likely not as qualified or experienced)?

Welcome to the world of brain drain. Organizations face a very real problem when it comes to losing all of the know-how that their older employees possess. From knowing the trick to use to close a sale to knowing the right person to talk to internally to get a project up and running, your employees hold a vast amount of insight into getting their work done. Losing this expertise can expose frightening gaps in your work processes, and can leave you scrambling to fill in the holes.

As you contemplate this dilemma and work on a solution, I encourage you to craft a strategy that leverages the power of mentoring. Mentoring is a natural way for people to share what they know and support the growth and development of another person, which is exactly what you want your soon-to-be retiring employees to do.

Here are three ways you can ask your retiring employees to use mentoring to plug the brain drain.

1. Focus on leadership and managerial skills.

Older, more experienced workers will likely have managed teams or led departments. Participating in a mentoring relationship with a younger employee gives them an opportunity to share critical experiences, best practices, and lessons learned in these types of roles. This can help your next generation of managers and leaders be more effective, even if they may lack years of experience in comparison with their older colleagues.

2. Highlight job-related skills.

Think about all the skills that your employees possess that are critical to your company’s success. If you are a software company, for example, you want to be sure that you don’t lose your best coders and developers. Since you can’t control when your Boomer employees will retire (or even if a talented Gen Xer will move on), you should instead encourage them to mentor others on skills they have mastered. This will allow them to transfer their practical know-how to an audience that is clamoring for real-world insights and opportunities to try out new skills.

3. Share best practices with a group.

There’s just something about having 20 years or more of experience that even the brightest young employee can’t compete with. Your more seasoned employees simply have been practicing their craft long enough to innately know what works, what definitely does not work, and general best practices to use in their field. Use mentoring groups led by your soon-to-retire subject matter experts to help disseminate this information to younger employees. This can help speed up the breadth and depth of learning that normally comes with time and experience.

Don’t let your company become a victim of the brain drain! Create an environment where employees can learn from and develop one another. To help people get started, you can encourage them to take part in mentoring using one of the example relationships described above and/or other use cases that address known organizational needs. And don’t forget: One of the best aspects of mentoring is that people can be in multiple relationships. Don’t limit people to just one mentor or mentee. Let them engage with as many people as they can so that knowledge can spread.

Get more ideas on how to use mentoring with exiting employees in this blog.

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