Cross-Generational Mentorship in Strata Community Management

An Original Essay by Sharon Martin Winner of the SCA (WA) 2021 Essay Award

Demonstrating your commitment to developing your employees comes with many benefits, including increased staff retention, company loyalty, improved productivity, and generally makes your employees feel cared for.

How can we attract a younger demographic into the strata management industry, as well as retain more mature professionals?

Mentoring is a good way to attract talent into our industry. It can serve as an incentive during the recruiting phase. Many candidates would be very happy to know that your company plans to support them with a mentoring program.

Millennials (Generation Y, 1981 to 1995) fundamentally think about jobs as opportunities to learn and grow. Their strong desire for development is, perhaps, the greatest differentiator between them and other ‘generations’ in the workplace. We need to recognize that millennials don’t feel entitled, they feel empowered. They want to expand their knowledge and skills, be useful, and they want their work and workplace to have meaning to them.

Generation Z (1996 to 2010) employees seem to value proactive communication, strong connections, and transparency in their workplace. Their expectations for the workplace are values-driven and aligned with their personal morals. They express the desire to have clarity on the expectations and parameters of their jobs with direct, frequent check-ins and performance feedback from their supervisors.

And then there’s Generation A entering to shake things up in around 15 years.

In addition, our industry must prepare for an ageing workforce. Twenty years ago, just a quarter of Australia’s population kept working after they turned 55. Now, we’ve far surpassed that, and the proportion will continue to rise. As people stay in the workforce longer it’s increasingly likely there will be times an older colleague might benefit from mentoring.

Generalisations about generational differences are common. Perhaps you’ve read Baby Boomers (1946 and 1964) value loyalty, and Gen-Xers (1965 and 1980) work-life balance, while millennials crave innovation and change. Stereotyping people by their membership of an age group is no less problematic than doing it according to ethnicity or gender. It can encourage unhealthy biases and create barriers to communication and understanding. The most widely known type of mentoring is classic mentoring, where the mentor is more senior than the person they are mentoring. But it’s not the only option. Together with reverse (or inclusive) mentoring, fresh new employees bring new ideas and an outside perspective. A better term than ‘reverse mentoring’ is ‘inclusive mentoring’. This takes the focus off thinking there is an age order to mentoring and puts the emphasis on simply encouraging shared learning between colleagues. Everyone has something of value to learn, or teach, in a respectful environment free from age or hierarchical biases.

Encourage your teams to build and maintain mentoring relationships that buck conventional thinking that mentors must be older and more experienced. Do this by creating cross – ‘generational’ mentor/mentee relationships. Provide opportunities for your more junior team members to demonstrate their leadership strengths to more senior members of your team and foster meaningful collaborations between the ‘generations’.

Having a formal, or even informal, mentorship program can make a positive difference when connecting various ‘generations’, and experience levels.

Younger employees who have experienced the mentoring relationship, tend to pay it forward.

The whole process repeats itself in a perpetual cycle of knowledge transfer and the creation of a leadership pipeline.

Mentors are Leaders. Leaders don’t produce followers. They create more Leaders.

It’s critical all employees understand the benefits of being both a mentor and a mentee, and that they understand how it will work.

Mentoring programs in the workplace aren’t easy to enforce through mandatory participation.

People need to choose to be involved if the program is going to be a success.

Select key people in the business to act as advocates for mentoring, spreading seeds of positivity about the program amongst their peers. There is good evidence that the best mentors show an inclination toward prosocial behaviour, a caring orientation, and terrific communication skills.

Who’s that person you always turn to in the workplace for help?

If you say ‘yes’ to most or all these questions, chances are they’d be the right fit for you: • Do they have experience walking the same path as you (or a path you’re interested in)? • Do they invest in and enjoy being part of others’ success? • Are they good at giving and receiving feedback? • Do they speak truthfully and respectfully? • Are they invested in their own growth?

Creating a mentoring relationship where multiple ‘generations’ share their experiences, skills, and work practices allow skill gaps to be eliminated. This brings everyone to a higher level.

Enlisting a robust group of mentors also leads to stronger succession planning. Rather than a single assigned mentor, employees are more likely to construct a constellation of supportive relationships.

Staff retention is a challenge for every Strata Management business. We learn about the importance of the customer experience and how communication is key to client retention. This same principal should also be applied to new and existing staff. Attracting new talent and nurturing current staff is paramount to the future of our industry.

When you are under pressure, the mentor/mentee relationship can be incredibly rewarding and supportive, both personally and professionally.

Mentorship can be a rewarding experience that brings personal satisfaction. Their successes are your successes too. After all, your advice played a role in their growth.

For the first time in history, there are five ‘generations’ active in the workplace!

The key to working with different ‘generations’ lies in our ability to understand generational motivations and values. Being able to appreciate these differences and similarities enhances our relationships with our colleagues – and our clients.

Cross-generational mentoring starts with understanding that ‘generations’ differ from each other in their strengths, preferences, working styles, ways of thinking, and it serves to make those differences an advantage rather than detriment in the workplace.

Remember, our schemes are full of owners and occupiers from many of the ‘generations’ we’ve discussed. If our Strata Management Companies understands their needs, we’re better able to collaborate with them.

The SCA Australasian Mentoring Program is working towards building a resilient strata workforce and to provide new entrants to the sector with a support network. This program is supported by Active and partnering with Mentorloop.

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