Launch Slideshow

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The Replacements

The Replacements

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    Photo: Stephanie Diani/Getty Images

    Millennial Lindsey Mannan (left center) and Gen Xer Kathy Mahboubian (right center) are being groomed by their baby-boomer mentors Jill Thomas (left) and Alan Oswald to navigate the ins and outs of the Engineering & Building Department in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.

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    Photo: Morton College

    Right: Since Morton College, Cicero, Ill., was refurbished to attract the latest generation of students, enrollment has increased. Two students share ideas over a laptop, which is built into a cubby wall that provides quiet computer space in the college's hallways.

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    Photo: Operations and Maintenance Division, Washington County, Ore.

    Ben Walnum gets acquainted with the public sector as an intern for Washington County's Department of Land Use and Transportation.

Case study: Mentorships

Train your replacements

Highway Maintenance Superintendent Joe Asher joined the Akron (Ohio) Public Works Bureau right after he graduated from high school. After 32 years working for the city and seven years in his current position, Asher would like to plan for his retirement.

If all goes well, by 2011 he will be antiquing with his wife, golfing, and traveling.

To guarantee his retirement, Asher launched a mentorship program to train his successor. “I though it was necessary to show somebody what I've been doing the past seven years before walking out the door,” he explains.

Asher invited the five public works supervisors working for him to apply for the mentorship program, and from there he and Public Works Manager Paul Barnett chose a candidate based on interest in the position, suitability, performance, tenure, ambition, and potential longetivity in the position.

They chose Steve Batdorf, who, at 47, is also considered a baby boomer. But with 17 years working for the city under his belt, he still has 13 years to go before he is eligible for retirement.

Asher spent the first year of the mentorship teaching Batdorf about all aspects of the job. During the next six months Batdorf did the work while Asher coached him through processes. Now Batdorf performs the job, under Asher's supervision, freeing Asher to focus on projects for which he never had time in the past.

Asher's mentor plan is not a depart-mentwide program. Yet because of it, the city now provides formal leadership training to current and potential leaders.

Although the job isn't guaranteed to Batdorf—he still has to go through the civil service exam and be ranked accordingly—the program enabled Asher to pass on key knowledge to a person who is equipped to step in when Asher decides to leave.