Giving Newcomers a Break—Youth Versus Experience

Earlier this year, Mosaic sponsored a gas industry round table for training leaders in the gas industry. One of the main topics for discussion was the aging workforce.

As Mosaic conference facilitator John Benoit said when the topic came up, “The irony wasn’t lost when people looked around the room and saw a sea of gray hair among the attendees.”

At that point, participants collectively smiled and shrugged their shoulders as a nod of confirmation on the topic.

Mosaic, as a national training and workforce performance consulting firm, is tasked with creating solutions to assist its utility and oil & gas industry clients on the impending challenge of the aging workforce. It’s also an issue that we struggle with.

Many companies get stuck in a rut of only hiring people who have lots of experience or are familiar with the type of work you do. It’s a bit like comfort food—hiring experienced, like-minded people with similar viewpoints and a healthy set of skills that complement the company is very comforting.

For most consulting firms, it’s easier to bring someone onboard that you don’t have to train or wait for them to get up to speed or answer a myriad of ‘how-to’ questions. The excitement and fun of having a newly-minted college graduate can be tempered with rookie mistakes or slow progress as the newbie learns the ropes.

And yet, the importance of having a balanced staff—seasoned veterans, mid-level careerists and a slew of rookies, and what all of them can bring to the table—can’t be overlooked.

In her recent blog for the Harvard Business Review, writer Liz Wiseman said hiring recent college graduates or those with slim experience doesn’t necessary slow a company down—in fact, it’s just the opposite.

“In my research studying how inexperience people tackle tough challenges, I’ve consistently found that rookies are surprisingly strong performers,” she wrote. “Because they face significant knowledge or skill gaps, they are alert, move fast and work smart. While they’re not well-suited for tasks that require technical mastery or where a single mistake is game-ending, they are particularly adept at knowledge work that is innovative in nature, when speed matters and the environment is quickly changing.”

Wiseman asserts that rookies are four times more likely to ask for help from a number of different perspectives and 50 percent more likely to listen. They are ready to explore more, generate fresh ideas, experiment and accelerate innovation.

In the world of consulting, experience counts, but we are exploring ways to give a lift to the rookies who want to learn what we know, and can teach us a thing or two from their perspective. In some ways, the knowledge transfer goes both ways.

We’re out there looking—talk to us.

–Miranda Leurquin, VP Human Resources