Modern Engineers Embrace Cross-Generational Mentoring

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Not too long ago, mentorships almost always worked in a single direction—veteran employees would share their experience with fresh recruits and new graduates. However, in recent years, a shift has occurred in mentorships, and Aerotek is seeing this firsthand with our clients. Now mentor programs often appreciate the technological skills and new approaches that young people can share with veteran engineers. Although this shift in mentorships began organically, more and more companies are beginning to formally encourage cross-generational development, with younger and more experienced generations sharing information with each other.

The generation gaps

Today, you will find four generations working side-by-side in organizations across the country—the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials. Aerotek recruiters pay close attention to generation gaps in today’s workplace. “If you combine the older generation’s hard-earned wisdom and seasoned judgment with the younger generation’s comfort with risk-taking and appetite for innovation, that's a potent combination," says Matt Wiehe, Aerotek recruiter. "Breaking down the walls that create generational divides in the engineering workplace ultimately helps organizations to break through a variety of other organizational and technological challenges.” As Aerotek contract engineer Gerry Stein said in Unlocking a Generation of Engineering Skills, “Whoever figures out how to unlock all that knowledge is looking at a very considerable amount of value. Business value.”

Learning from each other

Veteran engineers have an immense amount of knowledge and experience to share. And the new generation of engineers, who grew up as digital natives, have plenty to share with their senior colleagues as well—from new methodologies for problem solving to emerging technologies.

“I’ve heard many times that a company is “old school” and using outdated technology and equipment, while on the other side, younger engineers think they know it all and have all the answers. There is and will always be, the fight of what’s the best—the old way vs. the new way. Honestly, I think if the cross-generational workplaces joined forces, the solutions and ideas they could come up with would be invaluable,” explains Aerotek Recruiter Melanie Wilson-Herring. “Both tenured and junior engineers need to be open-minded and respectful of each other and their experiences and education. Yes, technology has improved and gotten faster, but having a legacy and knowledge from a seasoned professional is valuable as well.”

The firms doing the best work find a way to combine experience and new technology in every discipline. “One of the engineering firms we partner with in Charlotte, North Carolina is an example of a good cross-generational firm that has both experience and youth and is always looking for this type of diversity. We have placed an array of new and more experienced people with them and their work environment has always been very balanced,” adds Matt Wiehe.

The transfer of knowledge

By creating mentorships inclusive of all generations and talent, engineers can learn how to more effectively communicate and collaborate with each other. Different perspectives help engineering teams to come up with creative, innovative solutions to problems. Experienced engineers possess a huge amount of valuable information about their company and industry while younger workers can help them keep up with the latest trends and innovations.

A positive impact

Managing four generations of engineers in the workplace can seem daunting. However, with careful planning and guidance, companies can foster an environment where mentorships benefit both a company and its employees. Aerotek works with both experienced engineers and fresh grads. Increasingly, our clients are embracing the power of cross-generational mentoring and noticing its positive impact on their bottom lines. If you’re looking for a rewarding career, we invite you to create a free Aerotek career account. To explore our current engineering opportunities please visit Aerotek’s refreshed job board.