A recent article in Bloomberg Business outlined how many large, older companies are preparing for a wave of retirements, as about 10,000 so-called “baby boomers” reach retirement age each day, and are leaving the workforce, taking with them a significant amount of institutional knowledge. This leaves a number of leadership roles to be filled by younger colleagues, millennials, who bring a different skill set and life experience to these important roles.
As noted in the article, “until last year, boomers made up the largest portion of the U.S. population, and Generation X represented the biggest share of the workforce. Now millennials lead in both categories: They hold about 20 percent of all management jobs, up from 3 percent in 2005, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.”
Knowledge Transfer to the Next Generation of Leaders
Some companies are putting in place knowledge-transfer programs to ensure that institutional knowledge is not lost as boomers retire, and that millennials are better prepared to step into leadership roles. As workers age 55-64 on average spend 10 years at a company, while 25-34 year olds on average spend 3 years with a company, some companies are finding that better preparing millennials for leadership roles encourages them to stay within the company as they can better see the opportunities ahead.
However, alongside institutional knowledge is experiential knowledge, which has been gained over years of working, networking and developing a baby boomer’s career. In the article, author Jeff Green, quotes a senior consultant at Deloitte, who notes: “Millennials bring data and analytics, but boomers have experience they can rely on when the data isn’t sufficient.” So where do millennials get help to build their experiential knowledge? The professional association is one such resource.
Professional Association Membership Creates Opportunity
Many professional associations are also working to ensure that millennials perceive the value of membership, as associations try to secure their own future. One way to do this is to provide opportunities for millennials that they might not be getting at their workplace. Millennials bring passion and desire for fulfillment to their careers. Not all companies are able to provide support for knowledge-transfer initiatives, and some millennials are getting disillusioned about their career opportunities while waiting for baby boomers to retire.
Here is where the association can step in, to engage and encourage millennials to develop their careers with continuing professional development, through providing education, networking and mentoring programs that create opportunities which are currently lacking in their workplace. One blog notes that “to excite and engage millennials”, associations can provide “the mentorship, networking and experience that their data-entry job won’t allow them yet”, in order to provide millennials with "the necessary skills and talents to shine at their next interview or promotion meeting”. Millennials that are better prepared through engagement with mentors, peers, and professional development resources provided by associations will be at an advantage when their next career opportunity arises.
Mutual Benefits of Mentoring Millennials for Associations and Members
Though first published online in 2008, this journal article makes relevant comments about the benefits to both members and professional associations of offering mentoring programs, especially in industries where knowledge-transfer programs are not widely offered by companies.
“Conducting such programmes under the auspices of a professional association has benefits for the mentors, mentees and the association. Mentors benefit by being able to demonstrate their commitment to the profession, learn from their relationship with their mentee, and receive training.
For the mentee, in addition to the learning and support they receive from their mentoring experience, such programmes bring with them the added support offered by having a gateway to the wider networks, services and advantages to be found in association membership.
For the association, mentoring programmes facilitate the transmission of professional values, and they also offer an individually targeted attraction to professionals to join and then retain their membership.”
The article notes that providing mentoring as part of a structured formal program can seem challenging if it has not been done before, as other forms of professional development, such as conferences and short courses, “have far more in the way of precedents, guidelines for success, and measurable outcomes or benefits.” This can be true, especially if the association has few ways for the members to communicate directly with each other outside of face-to-face meetings and conferences.
Provide Access and Structure for Mentoring Programs with an LMS
This is where a learning management system can help to facilitate a more accessible and structured mentoring program for professional associations, especially for associations with a geographically dispersed membership. There are several features of an association LMS which support social or collaborative learning, one of these is discussion forums or groups. Stand-alone discussion groups can be set up to facilitate online conversations between the mentor and an individual or group, or to establish peer-to-peer mentoring and support, whether in an informal capacity or under a formalized program. Several associations have also adapted their LMS to use defined user roles and groups to facilitate more formal and structured individual and/or group mentoring.
Facilitating a mentoring program through the learning management system connects this form of continuing professional development with the other education and training resources offered by the association through one platform. Accessing resources online is second nature to millennials, making the association website and LMS the logical choice for access to continuing professional development and mentoring support. Because an association LMS should be seamlessly integrated with the association website and association management system (AMS) through single-sign-on, it provides a single, easily accessible point of access for members to all training and mentoring resources. If millennials become used to accessing the association website and LMS portal for mentoring support, they will also have an opportunity to browse the rest of the association's professional development catalog, and the LMS can be used to market courses to them. In this way, mentoring millennials can encourage further engagement with the association and help to build the case for retaining membership in the future.