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?