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Melissa Stewart

Management

Addressing the Experience Gap Between Longtime Employees and New Talent

Successfully bridging the gap requires ongoing commitment from everyone

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2023 - 11:02

Companies are always looking for ways to bring in fresh ideas and new perspectives. And in an ever-evolving digital world, you can’t blame them. Young talents possess the latest technological skills and insights, which can be incredibly useful in adapting to the times. However, there’s one thing they often lack: experience.

Today, businesses are struggling to find suitable replacements for those who have retired or ascended the corporate ladder. Their successors have yet to match their wisdom and expertise, leaving an experience gap in the workplace.

Sadly, it’s not something you can teach in a few months and be done with—it’s a journey that requires patience and a bit of finesse.

In this article, we’ll look at some tried-and-true ways to bridge this gap so that you can maximize the potential of your new hires and enhance employee engagement.

What is an experience gap?

Experience gap refers to an organization’s shortage of expertise or skills prompted by experienced workers exiting their positions due to retirement or promotion. It’s mainly a result of poor succession planning and can negatively affect employee morale and productivity.

Apart from poor succession plans, there are many other reasons for experience gaps. Here are some of the most common.

Economic recessions and downturns

In 2020, due to the global pandemic, the world experienced its second major economic shock since the 1930s’ Great Depression.

Most companies closed for months, and the few remaining had to downsize and restructure their operations. As a result, this led to a considerable talent gap that most businesses are finding difficult to fill even today.

Physical demands of the job

While many older workers are mentally capable of performing their jobs, physical limitations make this impossible. Unfortunately, many companies are underprepared to address this issue due to a lack of resources.

Short-term cost-cutting measures

Due to economic turmoil and competing demands, companies always look for ways to reduce costs. Unfortunately, one of the most affected areas is often the workforce.

Some of the positions may be eliminated, salaries may be cut, or the hiring of new talents might be frozen. All these measures contribute to a growing disparity between experienced workers and newcomers.


Consider a two-way mentoring model if you want to bridge the experience gap. Both parties can be mentors and mentees, irrespective of their seniority.

Demographics

For many years, the baby boomer generation has dominated most positions. As this generation ages, many boomers are leaving the workforce, creating a talent gap.

At the same time, millennials and Generation Z are gradually entering the labor force and encountering an unfamiliar environment. As a result, there is a vast knowledge gap that you can’t bridge without proper guidance.

How to address the experience gap

While managing the experience gap between veteran staff and new talents is challenging, you can make it work with the right strategies. Here are ways to go about it.

Perform an experience gap analysis

Before hopping into any strategies, employers must first understand the scope of the gap. The last thing you want is to spend resources addressing issues that don’t exist.

A good starting point is to analyze the collective experience of your entire workforce. Compare their skills, knowledge, and work history against job requirements. Use that data to identify areas where the gap is most prominent. This could be in specific departments, job roles, skill sets, work styles, or attitudes.

Once you know the disparities better, you can begin crafting a plan. In addition, it’ll help you focus your efforts on the employees who need it the most.

Incorporate professional development programs

A business’ success lies in its employees’ growth. So, create structured programs that provide valuable resources for your new team members, such as:
• Industry expert webinars
• On-the-job training
• Accreditation courses
• College courses
• Lunch and learns 

Unlike training that seeks to fill a gap, professional development programs provide a more holistic approach. They help employees stay informed on new practices and industry trends, gain knowledge, and upskill to succeed in their roles.

In return, this instills confidence in your employees, boosts their morale, increases engagement, and makes them more willing to collaborate. In other words, the programs create an environment of camaraderie and trust, which is essential for bridging the experience gap.

Encourage cross-generational mentoring

When most people hear the word “mentoring,” what comes to their mind is an executive teaching a young protege. While this is the most common type, consider a two-way mentoring model if you want to bridge the experience gap. Both parties can be mentors and mentees, irrespective of their seniority.

For instance, let your seasoned employees guide junior colleagues on industry best practices and share their successes and failures. Meanwhile, the newbies can pass on their enthusiasm and knowledge about emerging technologies and trends. Together, they can create an environment of mutual learning, growth, and collaboration.

However, before embarking on such an endeavor, ensure that everyone is on board. Set clear expectations and rules around mentoring relationships to avoid any potential miscommunications. You want everyone as comfortable as possible so they can make the most out of it.

Establish two-way communication

Communication is vital for the smooth operation of any business. But more often than not, it’s one-sided, designed to disseminate information from management. Unfortunately, this creates a disconnect preventing any honest dialogue from taking place.

To bridge this divide, create two-way communication channels. It involves back-and-forth sharing of ideas, views, and experiences. When employees feel heard regardless of seniority, it breeds respect, builds trust, and encourages collaboration.

However, the strategy will solve your experience gap only if you incorporate it into your organization’s culture. For example, hold monthly town hall meetings, introduce open-door policies, or leverage group chat platforms.

Such tools will allow your longtime employees and new talents to express themselves openly and engage in meaningful conversations. Ultimately, it’ll help you create a more harmonious and productive work environment.

Foster cross-functional collaboration

Companies must stay ahead of the curve in today’s rapidly changing world. As such, fostering cross-functional collaboration is essential. In fact, a report by the World Economic Forum 2020 found that it promotes leadership, a skill necessary in this era.

The strategy allows employees from different departments to exchange ideas and collaborate on projects, making them more aware of what’s needed to succeed. A good example is having your junior tech staff work with your senior marketing sales team. That way, they’ll gain an understanding of customer requirements, which will help them create better products.

Moreover, it encourages employee engagement, allowing them to build meaningful relationships with their peers. Everyone feels more respected and appreciated, energizing the entire workforce. And, in such a supportive environment, the knowledge gap will naturally close, resulting in better outcomes for your organization.

Create a diverse and inclusive workplace

Diversity and inclusivity go beyond ethnicity or gender. It’s about fostering an environment where everyone feels appreciated, safe, and free to voice their opinions without fear of judgment. As a result, it promotes creativity and open-mindedness, essential qualities for any organization looking to stay competitive.

You can start by changing preconceived notions that your longtime employees are more valuable than the new ones. Instead, appreciate everyone’s efforts, because they bring unique skills to the table. Additionally, create nondiscrimination policies that protect employees from any unfair treatment.

By creating such a nurturing workplace, you’ll be giving the new talents the necessary confidence to contribute to the best of their abilities. In the process, they’ll gain invaluable insights from their veteran counterparts.

Recognize and reward performance and contributions

According to Deloitte, recognizing your employees’ efforts can increase their engagement and performance by up to 14%. That’s a significant improvement you shouldn’t ignore as a business owner.

In a competitive environment, you can use rewards to motivate your new team members and help them develop their skills. For instance, you can offer certificates, bonuses, or public praise for accomplishments. That way, they’ll be more willing to share ideas, work extra hours, or take on challenging tasks.

On the other hand, recognize your longtime employees, too. Show appreciation for their dedication, years of service, and loyalty. In doing so, you’ll inspire the rest of the team to stay focused and eager to learn.

Leverage new technology

Reports indicate that millennials and Generation Z workers are more willing to embrace new technology than their older colleagues. And with the influx of technology, companies can capitalize on the trend.

Investing in cutting-edge tech can provide veterans and new hires with a level playing field—not to mention the enhanced ability to collaborate remotely, communicate quickly, and work efficiently. For example, take advantage of software like Skype or Zoom for virtual meetings, Trello for project management, or Slack for communication.

However, remember to offer training, especially to the baby boomers who may be unfamiliar with the new tools. Show them the benefits of the technology so they don’t feel overwhelmed. Once they get the hang of it, they’ll understand its value, increasing employee engagement and bridging the experience gap.

Bottom line

Successfully bridging the experience gap between longtime employees and new talents requires ongoing commitment from everyone, from management to staff.

Open communication, mentorship, and training are just some of the methods you can use to create a supportive and productive work environment. Above all else, focus on improving employee engagement and promoting a culture of understanding and respect.

Discuss

About The Author

Melissa Stewart’s picture

Melissa Stewart

Melissa is a community outreach manager at Criterion. She is passionate about workforce management and leadership development. Outside of work, Melissa loves to play tennis and spend time with family and friends.