Before You Go: Mentoring and the Exiting Employee

Written by
Randy Emelo

Designing a Mentoring System

Exiting EmployeesYour exiting employees hold a wealth of tacit knowledge and skills in their brains, and organizations need to formulate ways to tap into that knowledge before it walks out the door. With Baby Boomers getting set to leave the workforce en masse, capturing this knowledge is a critical gap in organizational learning and development schemes, and one we need to address immediately. I contend that all employees should take part in mentoring, regardless of where they fall on the employee lifecycle or what position they hold in the company. Furthermore, I believe that exiting employees should spend 30 to 40 percent of their work time on mentoring. Yes, you read that right—30 to 40 percent. I know it sounds like a lot, but these employees are the ones who make your organization run smoothly because of their years of experience and innate knowhow for getting the job done. Trust me, you want to capture what these people know before they leave. If employers explicitly gave these exiting workers permission to use their time giving back in this way, they would have ample opportunity to share what they know with their colleagues. As a result, you, the employer, would be well prepared for knowledge continuity that is critical when losing staff.

Mentoring GroupOne of the best ways to efficiently leverage your exiting workers is to have them engage in group mentoring. They can lead several groups on various topics, having a bigger impact on numerous individuals because of the group setting than they would in just a one-to-one relationship. They can also pursue one-to-one mentoring relationships if they choose, but groups are the best way to spread their knowledge to a broader audience. Here are a few ideas on groups that your exiting workers could lead:

Have them identify a topic of expertise and experience, and then lead a group on that topic. For example, maybe you have an exiting employee who has spent years working on a specific product or product line that you sell or produce. Have the employee teach others some of the undocumented tricks and adaptations they’ve learned over the years—things that people rarely think to write down but that they use every day to get their work done. These employees 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.

Ask your exiting employees to lead groups on building relationships and professional networks within your organization and with critical outside players. These employees may have been with the company for years, and may know the ins and outs of dealing with vendors, partners, clients, even upper management. Their innate understanding of how to navigate your organizational landscape is an important factor that is too often overlooked. It can be difficult to figure out who to go to for support on a project or for budget approval on a critical item, but your exiting employees can share their experiences from similar situations and provide insider knowledge that can help your company run more smoothly.

Encourage your exiting employees to start a group that candidly looks at some past failures. We often learn best from mistakes, but if that hard-won understanding leaves with your employee, your remaining workforce may be doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Giving your employees a safe environment with a mentoring group to share these failures can help others learn from the past so they don’t repeat the same missteps in the future.

Get more ideas on how to use mentoring in new ways in Randy Emelo’s new book, Modern Mentoring, available now from ATD.

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