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Cross Generational Mentorship : The next big thing to align and mine from mixed-age workforce

With an expectation of five generations in work space a collaboration to work and ideate together across varied age groups is the reality of the day. The importance gets clearly visible when some of the world’s leading organization decided to come together to define seven principles in The Guiding Principles for Age-Friendly Businesses.

The principles among others set out to recognize the potential contributions of employees of all ages and the value of a multi-generational workforce by encouraging an inclusive environment and discouraging age-related discrimination or hostility.

This collaboration is also the need of the day as it brings different perspectives on the table and for the business to take advantage of that and in turn build and strategize their vision and goals.

According to the article, Future Of Work published by Forbes , multi-generation decision teams had more than twice as many positive outcomes! Decision-making teams with a “wide” age range of 25 years or more from youngest to oldest team member met or exceeded expectations 73% of the time, while those with a “narrow” range of less than 10 years did so only 35% of the time (p=0.05).

Now this is a data to reckon with.

It is against this backdrop initiates like cross generation mentorship or reverse mentoring sound committed to the cause of debunking preconceived notions about each generation, tap the potentiality, invite different thought processes and know-how from diverse age groups and leverage that.

SAP Labs India as always being a forerunner devised the unique learning program of Cross Generational Mentorship as part of its Generational Intelligence pillar. It is not restricted to only SAP Labs India but open for all the entities like SAP Concur, SAP Ariba etc. that fall under the bigger umbrella of SAP and across geographical locations within India.

The program pairs early talents with matured talents and encourages to discuss and mentor along the lines of chosen areas of interest and specialization. Instead of the typical role of the mature seasoned talent as the mentor, it does a role -reversal and puts the early talent into the focus.

The program is not to be relegated as a mere exchange of ideas as these regular exchanges, conversations, thoughtful presentation of selected topics and sharing of ideas and perspectives spread across couple of months result in a unique learning experience.

When I opted and walked into this, I did not know what to expect. Should I preach or do I get preached. Do I tell him why in this age when careers are like “tours of duty”( a term coined by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman) it still pays and helps to aim for a long-term career in one organization or do I get told the importance of gaming method of learning and gig economy? Since I love to interact with people and always up to learn something new, I walked into the program with a curious yet a bit cautious mind.

The experience turned out to be quite rewarding. I was paired with an energetic, curious, willing to learn and share, early talent: Bibek Sankar. Hailing from Bhubaneshwar, Bibek is comparatively a new entrant in namma Bengaluru and SAP family. In fact, SAP is his first job. His interest in deep learning and AI and the ability to explain the same in a lucid manner became a boon for me as I always wanted to discuss these and clarify with someone. There he was ready to answer my questions. Even when he did not have prompt answers to all my questions, he admitted, guided and came back with answers after finding it by himself. On a personal note , in our case, icing on the cake was our mutual passion of travelling.

When it came to my turn to share and coach, Bibek had been never hesitant to ask questions, challenge and yet was always open to hear and accommodate my side of the perspectives and beliefs based on acquired professional experiences and observations.

To keep the momentum, we connected almost every Monday over scheduled meetings. In the initial days we did not keep it too restricted to the mentoring topics and rather invested time to build rapport and understand. The regular interactions slowly but surely paved the way for exchange of ideas, knowledge and perspectives. Not only could I ask my questions freely on the latest technology, trends and innovations but through Bibek I got insights into a Gen Z’s psyche and his expectations from a workplace. This in turn I know will help me to understand my teams and become a better leader.

Last but not the least I would like to thank the team involved in conceptualizing and driving this initiative and giving an opportunity to all the applicants to learn, by appreciating the mixed-age group of employees we have and mining and benefiting from the alignment and cross-pollination of different ideas and thought processes.

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