Focus on Mentoring as Baby Boomers Near Retirement

by Rik Nemanick, Ph.D.

We are facing a new reality as the economy improves: acceleration in the retirement of the baby boom generation. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants published a study in 2011 that found that the average baby boomer was postponing retirement for four to six years. Starting this year, it is estimated that 10,000 U.S. citizens a day will turn sixty-five, the traditional age of retirement. As the economy continues to improve, the baby boomers who postponed retirement when their 401k took a hit in 2008-2009 are going to start to create an influx of retirements over the next few years as their retirement funds recover with the market.

What this means for organizations is that, as they start growing again, they are going to start to lose the intellectual and social capital locked up in their most seasoned employees who postponed retirement longer than they would have otherwise. These individuals are often the stewards of the organization’s culture and history, as well as the keys to important relationships both inside and outside the company. Before these individuals retire, organizations have the opportunity to share their knowledge and culture with the next generation of leaders.

Mentoring benefits both those sharing their experiences and those being mentored. Many seasoned mentors appreciate the opportunity to be recognized for their contributions to the company by sharing their perspective with the next generation. A lot of them are looking for opportunities to give back to their companies and leave a legacy that will endure. Others gain enthusiasm and energy connecting with those younger than them; we hear in surveys of mentors in our mentoring programs that they take a renewed interest in their own careers after working with a protégé. Finally, many mentors enjoy learning from their protégés about new technology and the perspectives of the next generation.

Protégés benefit from connecting with these mentors, as the mentors often can show them a more strategic view of the organization. They learn what has come before them and see their contribution to the organization as part of an ongoing story in the life of a company. The organization benefits as the vital culture and history gets passed along to its up and coming workforce.

There are few ways for an organization to create connections that benefit everyone involved. As you look over your workforce and consider how many may be retiring in the next five years, consider using mentoring to increase the engagement of all those involved.

To comment on this article or to learn more about mentoring, contact Rik Nemanick at