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Tag Archives: older experienced employees

Reverse mentoring: working one-on-one with a younger colleague can help you stay relevant

reverse mentoringI often discuss the value of one-on-one mentoring relationships with my clients as well as here on the blog (in fact, one-on-one mentoring makes up a significant portion of my professional practice).  The assumption with mentoring is often that it is a one-way effort – veteran staff mentoring younger employees.  However, there is just as much value in reverse mentoring – where senior employees benefit from a one-on-one learning relationship with someone who is much younger.  The value can come in many aspects, but the most beneficial is likely in the area of technology.

When it comes to technology, there are many tools and resources out there that you may have never heard about.  So if you are over 35 years old, it’s worth considering a reverse mentoring relationship with a younger work colleague.  Ask your younger mentor what trends they are observing and what new technologies they are trying out.  Ask them to show you how these tools work.  Tell them about the work-related challenges you are facing and see if they have solutions to offer that you may not have considered, or for that matter, even know about. Continue reading

Motivating workers near retirement – 1310 News Radio Ottawa interview

Last month, I posted a link to my latest column in The Globe & Mail‘s Leadership Lab series.  “How to inspire the close-to-retirement employee” got so much attention that it went on to publish in the print edition of The Globe‘s Report on Business on August 29.  1310NewsThis subject of workers near retirement struck a chord with leaders (and employees) across the country, and Ed Hand from 1310 News Radio Ottawa invited me to be his guest on his popular talk show Talk to the Hand.  Here is a link to an archived version of my conversation with him.  There is some advertising at the front end (just a few seconds) but the interview follows right after.  If you’ve got workers near retirement on your team (or if you ARE an employee that is close-to-retirement) then I think you’ll get value from this. Continue reading

How to inspire the close-to-retirement employee

My newest column in The Globe & Mail‘s Leadership Lab series just launched into cyberspace this morning!

“How to inspire the close-to-retirement employee”

addresses this question that I am often asked in leadership training workshops and mentoring situations — “How do I elicit high performance from someone who is close – and coasting – to retirement?”


As most of you know, my last three columns in The Globe went viral; apparently the subject of millennials in the workplace can be quite controversial! 🙂  I of course was thrilled to bits that they stimulated so many conversations on the online boards, as well as around water coolers in organizations across the country.  But in today’s column, I decided to go in a another direction, focusing on a different demographic — Boomers on the verge of retirement who are either doing an adequate job (no more, no less), or in some cases, have mentally already left the building.

As always, and I hope it goes without saying, I’d love your perspectives!  The column should take you no more than a few minutes to read; I hope you’ll find it relevant and thought-provoking.  Add your viewpoint to The Globe‘s website, or if you wish, post your comment here, or send me a tweet (@mergespeaks).  Please … pass the link along to your staff and colleagues.  I suspect that they’ll each have an opinion as well!  And if you happen to be a Boomer on the verge of retirement (or managing someone who is), please jump in and join the conversation; I’d love your take on this topic.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you.  Here is a direct link to the article in case you need to cut and paste it elsewhere:

Expect older, experienced employees to continue to learn

If you have older, more experienced employees on your team, often they will assume that they no longer need training. After all, they’ve been doing what they’re doing for a while, so what value will training add? Perhaps nothing to the technical aspects of their job, but there is still a great deal of return on investment to be had on training in other areas. When it comes to verbal and written communication, relationship skills, leadership development, and personal development, there is always something new to learn. Or perhaps your employees aspire to other roles but previous managers have shut down their dreams. Now is the time to help them shine. When you insist that your employees, ALL your employees, continue to learn, the message you send is strong: “I value you enough to invest in you.” Occasionally, your veteran employees will fight you on this, stating: “I’m not looking to get a promotion or move to another job, so I really don’t need to attend any training.” Don’t buy into that excuse; be adamant in your resolve that they should always continue to learn.

What do you think? Is training an investment that will yield returns when it comes to older, more experienced employees? Please add your comments below.

P.S. In previous blogs, I’ve offered you ideas on how to capitalize on the value that older, experienced employees bring to the organization. If you’re interested, see:

Ask your older more experienced employees to teach and mentor others

In the past, I’ve offered you some specific ideas on how to capitalize on the wealth of experience that older, more experienced employees bring to the table.  Here is another one to consider – ask them to teach and mentor others.  Just like any other employee, your more experienced employees want to feel valued and recognized.  And asking them to teach or mentor another employee is a great way to not only accomplish that, but also build up the overall capabilities of your department.  Be specific when you ask — Edna, can I get you to spend some time with Rick and show him how to re-activate or re-issue old customer accounts.

For other ideas I’ve offered in the past, see:

So … how are you tapping into the knowledge and expertise of your older, more experienced employees?  Please share.

Working with an older experienced employee? Seek a “non-compete” agreement

Back in September last year, I told you about Martha, an older more experienced employee who’d been in my department for a very long time AND who unfortunately carried a huge chip on her shoulder.  My reason for telling you about Martha was because her experience was most likely under-utilized and under-appreciated.  But it’s these very employees that can be a valuable resource to you and your department IF you can find a way to capitalize on their strengths.  Since I first told you about Martha, I’ve offered you a couple of ideas to bring out the best in such employees – specifically acknowledge their experience, and use them as sounding boards for new initiatives.  Here’s another approach – seek a “non-compete” agreement.

Let the Marthas in your world know that you have no desire to compete with them.  If you’re fairly new to the department or organization, it’s unlikely that you will have the same in-depth knowledge that your older more experienced employees do, so what’s the point of pretending otherwise?  Instead, try the direct approach: “I acknowledge and value the breadth and depth of experience you bring to our department, and I’d like to collaborate, not compete, with you.  Can I count on you for that?”  Now don’s assume that you’re going to get a positive response right away (you won’t), but at least you’re engaging your Martha in a dialogue, and that’s a step in the right direction.

So … what do you think?  Have you tried this approach and has it worked?  Do you have an alternate suggestion?  Do share.

Use older more experienced employees as sounding boards

A few months ago, I told you about Martha, an older more experienced employee that I worked with in one of my early roles as a supervisor.  The Marthas of the world have a great deal of experience and longevity in the organization and industry, but because they’ve often been under-utilized and under-appreciated, they usually carry a huge chip on their shoulders.  Despite the apparent negativity though, these employees CAN be very valuable resources for you and your organization IF you can find a way to tap into their knowledge and strengths.  Back in September, I offered you one approach to get the most out of your Marthas – acknowledge their experience; now here’s another suggestion.

Use them as sounding boards for new initiatives. Remember, Marthas have seen “new” ideas come and go.  If you are thinking about putting in place something new and different BUT your Martha knows WHY something similar didn’t work five years ago, then don’t you want to know?  It’s this knowledge, this inside track, that will help you make sure that you’re not setting yourself up to fail!  Float new ideas past your Marthas before making your final decision. Say something like “I’m thinking about changing the way we get our employees to submit their expense statements. What do you think?”  Now be prepared; just because you start asking questions such as these does not mean that the Marthas of the world are suddenly going to turn into founts of information.   Be realistic, they’ve probably seen other leaders try this approach and give up, so your initial advances may not sway them.  But if you persist with respect and inclusion, they’ll eventually come around to seeing that you’re the real thing!

What are you doing to tap into the knowledge and experience of your older more experienced employees?

Acknowledge what older more experienced employees bring to the table

Years ago, in one of my early management roles, I supervised an employee named Martha.  Martha was memorable because she’d been in the department and organization for a very long time AND she carried a huge chip on her shoulder.  I was a new supervisor and in one of our early interactions, I suggested an alternate approach to one of our processes. She immediately jumped in with: “Tried that bright idea five years ago. Didn’t work then, won’t work now!”  Now you no doubt have come across one or two of your own versions of Martha in the workplace.  Loosely defined, these are employees who have a great deal of experience, and who have been with an organization for quite a while. They’ve seen supervisors and managers come and go; many times they’ve trained those very people only to see them move on to greener pastures. If they have chips on their shoulders, it’s likely because their experience has been under-utilized and under-appreciated. Yet, it’s these experienced employees that can be a valuable resource to you and your department IF you can find a way to capitalize on their strengths.

Here’s one idea.  Acknowledge their experience. They need to hear it from you.  They’ve heard the education vs. experience storyline before and they often see themselves as getting the raw end of that deal!  The truth is that experience is education, and if you, as a leader, cannot appreciate the value of experience, then you’re setting yourself up for ongoing failure with your more experienced employees. But it isn’t good enough to just know this; you have to tell them. Verbalize this sentiment: tell them you recognize and value the experience they bring, and that you’d like the benefit of their knowledge as you continue. Don’t be afraid to repeat it.

What are you doing to tap into the knowledge and experience of your older more experienced employees?