The topic of this discussion relates to knowledge transfer from generation to generation. I think it’s important to realize that with the graying of the workforce in the United States, due in large part to Traditionalists (born before 1945) phasing out of the marketplace and the emergent retiring from the workforce of the Baby Boomers (born from 1946 to 1961), corporate America faces a pivotal question: How can critical information be transferred from these highly experienced individuals and passed on to the younger members of the organization to enhance their ability to have significant impact quickly? Corporate America’s initial response to the issue is to emphasize the establishment of formal training programs. These include selected groups of highly experienced facilitators providing the requisite technical and generational information, reinforced by on-the-job training, to accelerate the transfer of knowledge. But a critical component of knowledge transfer is missed in this strategy. The critical missing piece has to do with cultural knowledge transfer-training about the legend and the lore of the company. It focuses not on the way things are done (Technical) but on intense discussions as to how decisions are made, why the decisions that were made in the past occurred and allows for significant exposure to what actually makes the corporation tick and therefore, defines what the company really values and expects of its employees in “doing things right” as well as “doing the right thing.”
It is my contention that tying in a well-crafted mentoring program which allows senior executives and professionals to share their cultural knowledge with newer members of the organization is an excellent way to round-out the essential knowledge experience of newer managers and supervisors.
Such mentoring programs can consist of frequent one-on-one sessions between mentors and mentoring partners (mentees) providing exposure for both parties. A good mentoring program is designed to be reciprocal. Where seasoned managers share their technical and cultural insights and perceptions for the benefit of the mentoring partner and where the mentoring partner provides the seasoned executive with insights about what is happening on the “front line”, an area where many seasoned executives have little day-to-day exposure-where their junior managers and supervisors live constantly. It is also a unique chance for those very same mentoring partners to define what corporate messages “from the top” are unclear, garbled, and therefore, misunderstood. The clarification of those messages by the senior managers during the mentoring discussions gives the organization a chance to “get it right”, resulting in significantly improved corporate performance.