Editor's note: Also take a look at reader reaction to our question on mentorship here.
Corporate grandparenting might be one of the strongest talent management strategies that few have heard of – but that's about to change.
For Tom Gimbel, founder & CEO of LaSalle Network, a recruiting and staffing firm headquartered in Chicago, corporate grandparenting is a hidden gem that HR leaders should consider if they are looking for ways to boost engagement and build an even stronger company culture.
Gimbel, a talent management expert who speaks frequently with CNBC, the TODAY Show, WSJ, Forbes, Bloomberg and Fox Business, among others, defines corporate grandparenting as when top level managers take responsibility for the cultural mentorship of employees who are not their direct reports.
“The corporate grandparent acts in a similar way to grandparents in real life,” he says. “Their job is to guide the employee and provide a different perspective on ways to help them grow.”
How to make it work
Gimbel is especially convinced the concept works. At LaSalle, two of the firm’s senior executives work together to hold each other accountable to being a grandparent. Each week they identify an employee two levels below them to take to coffee, lunch or dinner, and effectively help the selected employee with career decisions and strategies.
Gimbel cites a study conducted by Bersin by Deloitte that found that having executive leaders participate in coaching and performance management is critical to business success – yet very few organizations do it.
“Most employers lack executives that are engaged in the development and performance management of staff,” Gimbel says.
He explains that corporate grandparenting can be formal or informal, depending on the organization. A larger organization might benefit from having a formal structure in place to make sure employees participate, for example. However, smaller organizations may find that an informal program works for them.
Either way, it needs to have CEO buy-in, otherwise it will fall short, he says. A CEO has the best grasp on the organization as a whole, as well as the vision for the future, including where talent needs will be. Developing the next group of potential leaders needs to be a priority for the CEO in order for it to trickle down throughout the rest of the organization.
Once the CEO is committed, senior leaders should be involved to discuss who they think would be good grandparents and who the high-potentials are that could benefit.
“Communication among leaders on its own won’t help build a talent pipeline,” Gimbel says. “Employers should institute regular evaluations and analyze the results among different employees in order to get a better understanding of an employee’s potential for advancement.”
How it’s done
Grandparents and their mentees could be in the same department if that’s what works best for the organization. Since the point isn’t to teach specific skills, the most successful matches tend to be based on personality. And, if it’s a formal program, a questionnaire could be used to match grandparents with employees in order to pair people with similar interests or personalities.
Mainly, corporate grandparents should be employees who have proven themselves at the employer and have a minimum four to five years with the organization in order to ensure they have a firm grasp on employer values and the organization’s mission.
“Grandparents are helping to ensure the future success of the organization by helping mold future leaders so employers have a strategic succession plan in place,” Gimbel says. “They are in charge of maintaining open communication with their direct reports as well as their mentees on a regular basis to help with their development.”
He says as senior executives become more involved with high-potential millennials and the staff two levels below them, the mentorship role spreads throughout the entire employer, ensuring employee development remains a top priority.
Gimbel offers a list of six reasons why corporate grandparenting is a winning talent management solution:
- Spread corporate values. Corporate grandparents can pass on core employer values to employees. When employees believe in these values and understand their role in maintaining them, they often stick around to follow them.
“Employer values can’t just be words put up on the wall,” Gimbel says. “They need to be values and actions every employee believes in and carries out. Corporate grandparents help spread values and get buy-in from high-potential employees.”
- Bridge the generational gap. When older, more seasoned staff mentor the younger up-and-comers of an organization meet, generational gaps decrease as employees of different levels and ages work together more.
“Many employers are dealing with a generational gap because employees aren’t retiring at the age they used to,” Gimbel says. “Getting employees of different ages to interact and work together helps staff relate to each other more easily.”
- Gain perspective. Corporate grandparents don't have to focus on the nitty-gritty details of the job. Instead they can share the employer's broader vision with employees, making them feel personally invested in the organization's future.
“Corporate grandparenting helps remind employees how their role fits into the bigger picture and shows them how they can contribute in a bigger way,” he says.
- Build internal networks. Connecting experienced executives with newer employees forms a strong internal network, building loyalty and commitment in staff.
“The best employers encourage communication between different departments, staff levels, locations, etc.,” Gimbel notes. “Connecting leadership with high-potential employees helps build communication between teams.”
- Increase engagement. When employees feel invested in, they are more likely to achieve goals and work to grow themselves and the employer. When executives devote time and energy to employees' emotional and professional development, employees will believe the employer cares about their personal career growth beyond that of the employer.
“Two of the most important things senior leaders can give are their time and confidence,” Gimbel concludes. “It shows employees that leadership believes in them and wants to invest their time in helping them grow. Also, when employees can see potential for career advancement, and they have strong examples in their executive leadership, they're more likely to stay.”