By Michelle Benjamin
June 14, 2012
Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, total more than 78 million strong and account for 26 percent of the total U.S. population. As boomers age, their choices about work differ from those of their parents. Today, boomers want to remain active longer, postposing retirement to work full or part-time or to volunteer.
Yet, 10,000 boomers retire each day taking with them years of work experience and career knowledge. With current staffing levels pared back as far as they can go, companies are challenged to transfer this experience and knowledge to the next generation of workers.
Competitive pressures have increased the demand for superior performance as a means to keep or acquire customers. The organization’s challenge is to bring the team’s knowledge base up to the required levels of excellence with the least disruptive impact on operations.
Enter the millennials. Born between 1980 and 1995, millennials are entering the workforce at a rapid rate, taking over the boomers who have passed 65 years in age.
Millennials are positioned ahead in the game because they are tech savvy, with every device developed by man almost becoming an extension of their bodies. They are kings and queens of multitasking - they text, talk, walk, listen to music, play videos and type simultaneously. Higher education has taught millennials to work in teams and to appreciate diverse groups. They are the generation most accepting of differences, and social media has made them the most connected and transparent in history, with the ability to use technology to demand societal change if they so choose. Progressive and confident, they want diversity and demand challenge in their work
To share knowledge between boomer and millennial, we must recognize each group’s differences, yet acknowledge the value that each group can bring to the work setting. If is well documented by adult education professionals that adults learn from doing, but we all learn differently. Some are visual learners; others may be auditory or tactile learners. The organization’s system of knowledge sharing from boomer to millennial must relate to all types of learners and incorporate all styles of learning.
Adult learning theory says that for adults to learn, they must be involved in a five-step process:
Show me what you do. (Visual/Tactile)
Write down how you do what you do. (Visual/Tactile)
Let me tell you what I do. (Auditory)
Write down how I do what I do. (Visual/Tactile)Trending
Together let’s try the new way of doing the job. (Visual/Tactile)
Using this five step process will help reach all types of learners and integrate all styles of learning. Using this five step process along with the following four strategies will enable your business to maximize the knowledge share experience between boomer and millennial.
1. Honor Diversity: Capitalize on the millennials’ desire to work in teams. Leverage the boomers ability to lead groups. Build groups with a 6-to-4 split, boomer to millennial. This strategy taps into the strength of each generation and uses these strengths to propel the knowledge transfer within the group. For instance, when our company, Benjamin Enterprises created a marketing cohort of boomers and millennials, our marketing strategy became grounded by solid marketing principles, yet, innovative and forward thinking in our use of social media.
2. Use technology to foster cross-functional collaboration: Take advantage of the millennials’ computer abilities. Create work that allows the millennials to transfer their computer skills to the boomers. Free apps, like DropBox, Sandbox or Google Docs, can be used to manage projects across several departments. Ask boomers to team with millennials to create an electronic version of work processes. Electronic documentation of processes and systems promotes interdisciplinary knowledge share regardless of geographic location.
3. Create a Mentorship Program: The millennial has an affinity for networking. Comfortable with teams, the millennial can co-lead teams with boomers. Human Resource department consultants can be used to structure a mentorship program with commitments and milestones to measure progress and success. The stronger the team bond, the greater they will complement each other to achieve departmental goals. Websites like, Mentor.org can provide helpful advice and free information on how to set up your mentorship program.
4. Provide a Flexible Work Environment: Millennials expect to have fun and make friends at work. To build strong teams, millennials and boomers can play on company sports leagues and jointly work on community events. Balance high work standards and team collaboration with fun events. Popcorn Fridays and occasional Ice Cream Sundae afternoons can keep work fun. Meet with your team and agree on department core values. Professional environments should allow individuals to make critical decisions that can impact department results. If these core values are agreed upon in advance, individuals should be held accountable to adhere to these values. Company cultures that emphasize high levels of achievement balanced by periods of laughter can uncover new process innovations for the department.
Our challenge is to help millennial employees learn new skills quickly through the sharing of knowledge and positive past experiences from boomer employees. Using this system of knowledge sharing will help you to achieve your firm’s plan of succession and gain new innovations at the same time.
Michelle Benjamin is the founder and CEO of Benjamin Enterprises. She has created Workforce Solutions through Labor Management and Training for major corporations for more than 25 years. She can be reached at 800.677.2532 or [email protected].