How to Build Skills to Boost Retention on Multigenerational Teams

BY Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza | May 30, 2023

“With the population aging, one of the concerns we hear from employers is that they’re worried about a good portion of their workforce leaving,” said Heather Tinsley-Fix, a senior advisor for financial resilience at AARP. “Because when they leave, they’ll take this huge reservoir of institutional knowledge, professional networks, and wisdom with them.”

How to keep this lucrative knowledge inside an organization and pass it across generations, was the central topic of conversation during a From Day One webinar about building skills to boost retention on multigenerational teams, moderated by Tinsley-Fix.

Among the strategies that panelists shared for moving the knowledge and expertise from older generations to younger ones, mentorship was the most popular.

“We have a lot of people who have worked on mainframe technologies for 35 or 40 years,” said Shashank Bhushan, chief talent development architect at IT services company BMC Software. “The knowledge that they have is not easily transferable.”

BMC Software matches senior team members with younger ones, even sending the older ones abroad for concentrated mentorship time with their colleagues around the world. As a perk, mentors can take a partner or spouse with them, making a vacation out of the deal. But Bhushan noted that you don’t necessarily have to incentivize mentorship all the time. “People take a lot of pride in being able to transfer and transition their knowledge out to younger people and to mentor them,” he said.

At Ball Corp., the world’s largest maker of food and beverage cans, long-tenured employees on the manufacturing floor often transition away from overnight shifts and onto special projects that let them train more junior workers on their institutional expertise. “That works better for them,” said Ball’s director of HR business partners Danae Atkins. “It’s more of a stable 9-to-5, or a consulting basis, but it gets them out of the shift work, it gives them that fulfillment, and it also helps us leverage their knowledge.”

At corporate real estate firm JLL, Giselle Battley, the global head of early career talent, facilitates knowledge transfer in both directions. The company lets workers at any level opt in to be mentors. “I might go find someone who’s earlier in their career but has a specialty in a space that I want to learn about,” she said.

Mentorship and sharing knowledge across generations is all well and good, but panelists agreed that the challenge for most is finding the time to teach, and learn, something new. “Time is a precious commodity, even sometimes more than monetary resources,” said Atkins. “To carve out the time and the space, sometimes we’re able to get creative about this, like pulling all executives into a cohort program, or when we have some downtime in our plants, using that for training time.” You can encourage people to make time by building it into general performance expectations, she said. “If it’s important to your boss, it’s important to you. That’s often what motivates people to be able to carve out that time.”

The full panel of speakers from top left, Shashank Bhushan of BMC Software, Heather Tinsley-Fix of AARP, Danae Atkins of Ball Corporation, and Giselle Battley of JLL (photo by From Day One)

When time is a luxury, appeal to a worker’s sense of the future, Atkins said. “That point-of-need use has been very helpful for us. If you can show someone how this new skill will help them right now or how it will help them get to the next role, they’re more likely to jump in.”

Battley said young workers are eager in this way, and employers can leverage mentorship from older workers in their retention strategy. “Their intent to stay with an organization is really dependent upon our ability to continue to grow them, develop them, and move them into new positions,” said Battley.

Employers can’t expect workers to sign up for just any kind of skill development. “If you go into a room and ask people, ‘Do you want to grow?’ All hands will go up. But when it comes down to actual learning, the numbers drop dramatically, and it’s for a variety of reasons,” Bhushan noted. The first, he said, is time. The second is relevance.

Younger workers with a career ahead of them are more incentivized to learn, but the knowledge has to fit into career growth, not just knowledge for knowledge’s sake. “There is an assumption that they have more time,” said Battley. That may be the case, “but they don’t want to use that time for this.”

Employees have to know that their new skills will be put to good use, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be tomorrow. “That’s part of the wisdom for getting people to engage in the training: It’s good for me here and it grows me here, but I also know that my company is investing in my future, no matter where I choose to make that future.”

Editor’s note: AARP, who sponsored this webinar, has partnered with MindEdge Learning to create a skills-building platform for employers to upskill their employees regardless of age. The course catalog includes a range of high-demand skills as well as durable soft skills to enhance productivity and contribute to the growth of your workforce and company. If you’re interested in signing up or just hearing more about these courses, add your name to the Google form here.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza is a freelance journalist and From Day One contributing editor who writes about work, the job market, and women’s experiences in the workplace. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Quartz at Work, Fast Company, Digiday’s Worklife, and Food Technology, among others.

(Featured photo by Vanessa Nunes/iStock by Getty Images)

 


RELATED STORIES

How to Improve the Recruiting Process for Technical Talent

“There’s a record number of candidates applying for roles. I think it takes a good, solid recruiting strategy to ensure inclusivity practices are followed,” said Cody Ledbetter, senior technical recruiter at O’Reilly Auto Parts, during a From Day One panel discussion on how to build an exceptional recruitment process.According to Amanda Richardson, CEO at technical interview platform CoderPad, this increase in application volume is forcing recruiters to make changes. She observes companies abandoning loosely planned, informal interviews for more conscientious decision-making. “It’s nice to see companies being a little more organized, disciplined, and clear in their hiring processes,” she said.Richardson is encouraged by candidate assessments designed to evaluate the skills most relevant to the job–rather than arbitrary pop quizzes, for instance–and happy with the return of the live interview checking both hard and soft skills.It is the confluence of mutually beneficial tech tools and human understanding, said panelists, that is changing the way employers are able to recruit and vet incoming tech talent.Using the Latest in HR Tech to Improve the Hiring ProcessArtificial intelligence has talent acquisition professionals excited for its possibilities and likewise trepidation about its power. And whether they’re prepared or not, AI has arrived in HR technology. So, what are the implications for the hiring process?The panelists spoke to the topic "Hiring Tech Developers: Building a Nearly Perfect Recruitment Process" (photo by From Day One)“I do think that [AI] will make the recruitment process significantly more efficient, in terms of elimination of manual tasks,” said Phil Yob, senior director of talent acquisition at insurance tech company Applied Systems. “I don’t think that at this point it’s solving for the personal interaction you get from working with TA or HR in the interview process. Despite all the good work they can do from automated messaging, face-to-face interaction and the human touch element are big pieces.”Further, panelists urged recruiting teams to be vigilant about the quality of the AI tools they’re using. Ultimately, the TA teams and hiring managers who use them will be responsible for whatever decisions are made. “It’s our job to understand what it’s doing and what it’s weeding out,” said Julia Stone, head of recruiting for eCommerce infrastructure services at Amazon.Assessing Great CandidatesFaced with mountains of applications, recruiters are figuring out the most efficient, effective, and scalable ways of evaluating the qualifications of those candidates. Ledbetter’s rule of thumb is that “the recruitment process should be commensurate with the level of technicality for the role.” Don’t exhaust candidates with overly complex or back-to-back assessments. By avoiding burdensome technical assessments–and limiting questions only to those most relevant to the role–employers can build trusting relationships with top developers.Given the tech industry’s reputation for being less than diverse, Richardson said she’s encouraged by new skills-based hiring practices. “I can assure you that [tech] is still lacking in diversity, but I credit people teams with doing everything they can to really fight against it. I do think the opportunities are around finding a way to assess candidates that’s different from just looking for logos or keywords.”Regarding the legitimacy and consistency of recommendations made by interviewers themselves, the panelists encouraged rigorous preparation. “It’s very important to establish what each person is assessing for,” Amazon’s Stone explained. “By putting more rigor in that structure before you’re going in, you can avoid some of that groupthink.”There may be room for more equity in the hiring process when it comes to hiring candidates from within or without the organization. Yob noted that Applied Systems makes a point of operating consistently, whether the candidate is internal or external. “We’ll give a little credence to their having been a part of the culture, but I think the best thing we can do is to motivate internally by treating them the same and continue to move them through that process to make sure we’re getting the best possible person.”Skills matter, but so does the mode of working. Employers that have called their workers back to the office are returning to the in-person interviews, the panelists said, but that won’t be necessary for everyone. The best way to evaluate a candidate is the context in which they’ll be working. “Some companies give a Slack interview–or on Teams, whatever your product is,” said Richardson. “If you can’t communicate effectively on that channel, you probably aren’t going to be successful in a remote world.” The interview format matters, she said. “Are they going to be proficient not only in the skills but in the environment, too?”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, CoderPad, for sponsoring this webinar.Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza is a freelance journalist and From Day One contributing editor who writes about work, the job market, and women’s experiences in the workplace. Her work has appeared in the Economist, the BBC, The Washington Post, Quartz, Fast Company, and Digiday’s Worklife.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza | June 13, 2024

Developing Crucial Competencies Among Managers to Enhance Inclusion

To improve workplaces, leaders need to reevaluate how they are growing their managers and provide the proper support. In a From Day One webinar, Lydia Dishman, senior editor of growth and engagement at Fast Company, spoke with leaders about the strategies they’re taking to address skills gaps in their companies, especially those related to boosting workplace inclusion.Self-aware leaders display a higher level of confidence and empathy, resulting in stronger teams and effective leadership. Yet despite most leaders believing that they exhibit self-awareness, research shows only 10-15% of leaders are self-aware.The disparity comes from the challenge of displaying vulnerability, Khalil Smith, vice president of inclusion, diversity, and engagement at Akamai Technologies, says.“​​We need to be given at least an opportunity to have some of that autonomy to say, “I think that I can be better here or here,” Smith said. “It’s not a bad thing to say, ‘I do struggle with giving difficult feedback and that's not something that’s going to hold me back.’ This is different from being externally assessed because it builds the self-awareness that we need,” Smith said.By showing empathy for others, leaders can cultivate a safe work environment for others to grow, which can be a win-win situation for companies and employees. Singleton Beato, global executive vice president and chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer at media group, McCann Worldgroup, says empathetic leaders can reap the benefits of a stronger team.Amanda Grow of ETU, Singleton Beato of McCann Worldgroup, Diana Navas-Rosette of Microsoft, and Khalil Smith of Akamai Technologies spoke in a panel moderated by Lydia Dishman of Fast Company (photo by From Day One)“Being self-aware allows one to understand how to present constructive and corrective feedback in a way that isn’t demeaning to someone,” Beato said. “Doing so safely helps employees to feel that they have the support of the manager and helps them to be aware of not only whatever the correction needs to be but also to feel empowered to make that correction.”Leaning on Newer Learning MethodsWhen compared to traditional learning methods, researchers found immersive learning like VR training to yield better results and also positively impact employees’ performance. Amanda Grow, director of customer success at learning company, ETU, says learning simulations can also provide opportunities for employees to learn skills that may be difficult to learn in traditional settings.“One of the key elements in learning simulations is teaching people how to work through situations that they don't feel comfortable in,” Grow said. “Simulations have the ability to bring some of that emotion to life and make you feel uncomfortable or make you feel anxious.”During these simulations, employees dealing with challenging emotions have an opportunity to self-reflect on their emotions in a safe space, Grow says. “We want to teach people how to reflect and understand their internal processes,” Grow said. “That's going to be valuable if we want employees to improve their self-awareness.”Research found employees who have personal development opportunities are more engaged and have higher retention rates, showing how learning can play a large role in how employees perceive their work and growth.Whether it’s through traditional learning modules or providing a safe environment for employees to learn, leaders play an instrumental role in bridging the gaps. Diana Navas-Rosette, general manager of global diversity and inclusion solutions, communities, and activation at Microsoft, says that Microsoft is leaning on newer technology to offer personalized learning opportunities.“Simulations stand out as probably one of the most innovative solutions that we have in our portfolio right now. They are immersive and allow learners to practice the skills realistically and safely,” Navas-Rosette said. “A learner navigates through a simulation and then gets a report at the end that tells them what they did well and where they have areas of opportunities for them to grow. Employees can always come back and practice if they want to, allowing it to be a continuous relationship with a solution for them to build that skill set.”Wanly Chen is a writer and poet based in New York City.

Wanly Chen | May 21, 2024

How to Provide Fertility Benefits Without Breaking the Bank

Infertility impacts one in every six couples who are trying to conceive, according to the World Health Organization. “That number is staggering,” said Jenny Carillo, president of Ovia Health, who spoke in a recent From Day One webinar.“We’re seeing the average age of people who are trying to initiate their family building efforts increasing,” she told moderator Lydia Dishman. “People are now trying to conceive in their 30s and 40s, when they’re becoming less fertile.”However, a new report from Ovia Health suggests only 15% of employees have access to fertility benefits. “This benefit is very difficult to justify in terms of return on investment, and the reason why is that it’s crazy expensive,” said Arturo Arteaga, the senior director of total rewards at VCA Animal Hospitals.However, employees now see providing fertility benefits as their employer’s responsibility, says Kim Duck, VP of global benefits at News Corp. “I think it’s ramped up very, very quickly, where it used to be nice to have and now it is expected,” she said.That discussion began in the United States, but Duck said she was surprised how quickly it spread to global employees. “It’s just exploding everywhere,” she said. The Case for Fertility BenefitsOffering fertility benefits can be a difficult decision for employers because it serves only a small group of employees, says Arteaga. “You have to balance providing that benefit for a few or think of something else that can impact more people,” he said.However, 80% of the employees at VCA Animal Hospitals are women, so “it is something we need to do,” Arteaga said.Lydia Dishman of Fast Company moderated the panel on providing fertility benefits without breaking the bank (photo by From Day One)Even if a company offers fertility benefits, employees who use them still need to spend a lot of their own money to access care, says Arteaga. “But just imagine if you didn’t have the company helping you,” he said. “It’s just impossible for the majority of people.”For companies with difficulty recruiting new employees, fertility benefits can be a big advantage, says John Von Arb, VP of total rewards for Essentia Health.“We rely on our benefits as an employer of choice, and things like that encourage and incentivize individuals to come to us or to stay with us as we move forward,” he said.Fertility Benefits and the Continuum of CareHistorically, women’s reproductive health has been viewed as fragmented stages, such as conception, pregnancy, post-partum, and menopause, says Carillo.However, “the reality is this is a continuum of one’s life, and these periods of one’s life are connected to one’s whole health,” she said. “So, if we think about it from a whole health perspective, we’d like to anchor to the thought of prevention. And when you think about prevention, you’re able to really think about what preconception care looks like.”Carillo said helping employees be in a healthier place so they can conceive naturally is cost-effective compared to assisting them with fertility treatment costs.Providing benefits for young families doesn’t end after conception, says Duck. Some News Corps business units offer 20 weeks of parental leave that is gender agnostic.Essentia Health offers childcare support for mothers returning to work. Von Arb said this support is not just for day-shift employees, but also for those on the evening and overnight shifts. “All of those go with the broader context of family benefits,” he said.Talking to Employees About Fertility BenefitsInclusive language and inclusive perspectives are critical when talking to employees about fertility benefits, says Carillo. It’s important to be inclusive to men and the LBGTQ+ population seeking these treatments.Sometimes the male half of a heterosexual couple is only tested for infertility after healthcare providers have exhausted all the options for the woman in the relationship, says Arteaga. “I think that’s a cultural shift we have to change,” he said.Fortunately, younger generations are more open than older ones when it comes to discussing infertility, according to Von Arb. “Nothing is off the table,” he said. “I do think that it becomes a little easier for us to address some of these issues as we move forward, and frankly to communicate them a little more effectively, as there’s not a taboo around them.”Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Ovia Health, for sponsoring this webinar.Mary Pieper is a freelance writer based in Mason City, Iowa. 

Mary Pieper | May 10, 2024