Teaming up to teach:
How cross-generational teams can help you get more from your baby boomers
By: Mike McDonough
The insurance industry could be facing a mass exodus of senior talent in the next 5-10 years as baby boomers enter retirement at a rapid rate. With a sharp decrease in training opportunities for younger workers and a difference in philosophy among generations, it’s crucial that senior employees pass on some of their knowledge and habits to your next wave of leadership before they walk out your door.
The best way to quickly spread their experience to multiple levels of your organization is by grouping several generations together in mixed-work teams These teams let your employees learn from each other while your senior workers pass along the skills and knowledge they’ve gained throughout the years. But teams don’t just help you get the most from people approaching retirement; every level has something to learn.
Though you might be looking to benefit from your boomers in these teams, your senior employees can also get a lot from working with younger ones. Working with mid-level employees can give boomers exposure into parts of the business that they might not encounter every day. By asking questions like “what are the biggest needs your team has,” or “what is the challenge you face most frequently,” upper-management can work at a high level to enact real change for your organization.
Millennials often bring technological skills and fresh thinking to their roles that can really help take your company, and seasoned employees, into the future. Schools are arming graduates with new skills every year, so simply asking “Where did you go to school,” and “why was your coursework important to you?” can yield information that could be an asset in operations and recruiting.
For Experienced Employees
For those mid-level workers, they’ll be able to learn a lot from both the younger and senior-level employees that they’re partnered with. From the boomers and professionals preparing for retirement, this group can get the skills and insights they’ll need to step up as the next wave of leadership in your company. They’ll see the workings of senior staff and be able to identify exactly what makes the seasoned employees successful in their leadership and executive roles.
From the younger employees, they’ll be able to stay up to date on trends and advancements in the industry. They can also build on the energy and new ideas of these workers to find better and more efficient ways to run their teams and areas of the business.
For Younger Workers
Younger workers will benefit from the wealth of knowledge they’re exposed to in these cross-generational teams. From the mid-level employees, they’ll see the skills and knowledge they’ll need to move up in the organization and be successful at the next level.
From the boomers and senior staff, they’ll feel appreciated and inspired being exposed to decision makers at an early stage of their career. Millennials will be able to learn how baby boomers approach problems with patience and diligence and can incorporate those traits into their own work style. This exposure can also help with retention of younger employees and inspire the future leaders of your company to reach the boardroom.
As baby boomers quickly approach retirement, it would be a mistake to let them walk out the door without passing on their knowledge and experience to the younger generations. If you haven’t identified your next wave of leadership, it’s time to find them, either internally or by hiring from the outside, and have them start their apprenticeship before being thrust into an executive role. The talent gap is coming, but successfully utilizing your baby boomers in cross-generational teams can make bridging it much easier.