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Small Business Digest


Nurturing Talent in 2008, Key To Long Term Profits

One of the most important and toughest tasks facing managers and HR professionals in the coming year is to nurture the talent within an organization.  

One way of accomplishing this task is to improve and encourage mentoring and coaching within the organization. 

When a company integrates mentoring and coaching programs into the organization, it not only transfers knowledge, but also may resolve generational (Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials/Gen Y) and management conflicts that exist.
Few companies have figured out how to share knowledge among employees or to pass it on when workers retire or change assignments.  Most employers are not ready for the shift that could affect thousands of their workers, given that the oldest of the 80 million-strong Baby Boom generation begin to retire and collect Social Security payments this year.

Before Boomer retirees head out the office door, it is important that they share their tacit knowledge of the company culture with those employees who will remain active in the business.

A majority of Baby Boomers say they want to work in retirement, but U.S. companies are only just beginning to try to figure out how to accommodate that, according to a new study.

A survey conducted for financial services firm Merrill Lynch & Co. found that 71 percent of adults hope to work in retirement, with many looking for part-time jobs or an opportunity to move in and out of the work force---perhaps, during a period as a long as 10 years.

Asked how prepared their companies were for boomers reaching retirement age, just 24 percent said their companies were "on track" to deal with the retirements. Some 27 percent said they were "in the midst of preparing," 17 percent said they were just getting started, and 31 percent said their companies hadn't given it much thought.

To help organizations retain the Boomer generation's valuable knowledge, mentoring programs are linking older workers and retirees with current employees to help them understand the corporate culture. Some companies are using social networking techniques, phased retirement programs and other innovative methods to link older knowledgeable workers and retirees to the company and its current employees.  

For example, Human Resource Executive magazine reports that KPMG, with some 113,000 employees worldwide, recently launched a social networking system to connect with its corporate alumni, whom it hopes will serve as mentors to current employees. 

The firm is measuring the success of the initiative in three ways: career development, recruitment and relationship building.  By August 2007, only a few months after launching the site, KPMG had 7,400 former employees/alumni registered.

The mentor and mentee relationship is one of mutual benefit. The mentor gains the satisfaction of helping develop the talent and mentee gets access to "someone who has been there" as knowledge and experience is shared from one generation to another.

Many successful people believe a key factor in their success was and is having a mentor or coach. Mentoring programs have become popular ways for organizations to groom "high potential" employees for future leadership positions.

Companies are hot on the practice these days, believing it encourages loyalty, diversity, and cohesion. Fully half of the 500 biggest businesses in the U.S. now offer mentoring, up from about 10% five years ago, according to Menttium Corp., which sets up such programs for corporations.

Mentoring and coaching take on many forms.  Mentoring can be a one-shot intervention or a lifelong relationship. It can be carried out informally, as relationships develop on their own, or formally as part of a highly structured program. One of the most common problems, especially with formal programs, is simply that the mentor and mentee are incompatible.

Even the best intentions and most thorough questionnaires can't always identify what might really irritate a person about the other person. Many companies have discovered that it is best for the mentee to choose his or her mentor or coach rather than having the company doing the matching.

Here are three steps for preventing a brain drain in a company in 2008:

Identify your vulnerabilities. Create an age profile of the workforce by work unit or by function. Determine the average age of employees in each unit and identify who's likely to retire or leave the company for other reasons.

Identify types of knowledge at risk. Use interviewing and social network analysis software to find out what knowledge is most valuable. This will help the company decide where to focus knowledge-retention efforts.

Choose the tactics. If a company is focusing on transferring "tacit" knowledge, or experience that is hard to catalog, establish mentoring programs that bring older and younger workers together for extended periods.                                                                        

Adapted from article by John G. Agno, Certified Executive & Business Coach, Signature, Inc.,

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