With the ‘baby boom’ generation edging towards retirement age, organisations are being increasingly exposed to the challenges of key leaders and managers retiring. Whilst they are faced with losing valued employees, they are also losing vital organisational knowledge and experience.

Organisations need to enable retiring individuals to leave a tangible legacy through processes and activities that allow them to reflect upon, make meaning of and capture their tacit knowledge and experience.

Their knowledge and reflections can be utilised to great advantage to help redress weak areas in a business and to enhance its capabilities.

Whilst there are several approaches to enabling transfer of knowledge and experience (handovers, story-telling, legacy projects etc.) we should consider the merits of giving pre-retirees a formal mentor role as they work towards their retirement. This role could also be maintained post retirement, to continue the flow of wisdom.


Mentoring is not a new concept, and whilst it is interchanged in language with coaching, it differs in one key way – experience. Mentoring is about the sharing, exploration and transfer of experience with and from the mentor.

The benefits to the organisation are wide and varied and include:

  • Reduced risk to the organisation due to the loss of key organisational information and the more intangible tacit experience earned over years of employment in the organisation.
  • Increased knowledge, competencies and confidence of staff being mentored
  • Maintaining engagement of the employee due to retire, before their retirement date. The change in task and opportunity to leave a legacy provides kudos, empowerment and renewed motivation for the retiree.
  • Initiating a process and approach to mentoring in the organisation which in turn can create a culture of mentoring across the organisation. The mentor transfer programme could be a pilot activity.
  • Once the mentor transfer programme is set up the framework can be ‘modelled’ for a more organisational approach to mentoring.
  • Becoming a mentor can support retirees at a time in their lives and working careers where there can be enormous anxiety and uncertainty. In so doing, they continue to feel valued and relevant to the business and appreciate their mentor / apprentice relationship.

Creating a mentor transfer programme is not without cost. Aside from initial set up costs, the primary cost is time, especially in a professional based organisation. Time to develop and refresh mentoring skills and allowing time for mentor and mentee to meet. The flip side is that the cost of lost experience is likely to be far greater. One way to demonstrate this is to formally build in the mentoring role 12-18 months prior to retirement and measure the outcomes of mentoring.

Mentoring programmes (irrelevant of context used) mainly consist of:

  • Identification of purpose for using mentoring.
  • Specifying expected outcomes from the programme.
  • ‘Re-skilling’ mentors with the basic skills, tools and processes to be effective mentors.
  • Prioritising key areas and opportunities where an organisation wants to introduce and embed coaching.
  • Developing a clear mentoring process or framework for mentoring in the organisation.
  • Identification of those employees to be mentors.
  • Identification or matching of mentees to mentors.
  • Providing clear communication to and with the mentees.
  • Monitoring of mentoring activities and outcomes.
  • Reviewing the successes of the programme and sharing these with the organisation.

For a mentoring transfer programme, there will have to be additional focus on:

  • What key facets of the employee’s knowledge and experience does the organisation need to retain and share in the business? What is the organisation’s perspective on this as well as the employees’? Where are the risks to the organisation through the loss of the employee(s)?
  • Who are the individuals or teams that the information needs to be transferred to? How will they be identified? Who is the talent?
  • What is the likely structure to be once the person leaves and will this impact on who needs to be mentored?
  • What opportunities are there for team mentoring and sharing of experience to a wider audience.
  • How do we ‘measure’ the retained value achieved through having mentors in place.
  • How can engage with the retiree in their mentoring role once they leave (if that is a possibility)?

It is incumbent on an organisation to consider how it will manage and glean the most value from retiring employees, and to identify the opportunities and mutual benefits to both parties. A mentoring transfer programme does not have to be complex, in many ways its success will lie in the simplicity of enabling the conversations to happen.

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