Propel Your Business Forward with Reverse Mentoring

Wouldn’t it be great if instead of panicking about the inevitability of a majority millennial workforce, your senior staff connected with junior employees in a meaningful way? No, this isn’t a fantasy! It’s reverse mentoring— where the younger employee mentors the senior executive. We all seem to agree that younger employees are tech-savvy, eager, and looking for a more meaningful connection to their work environment. But many of our senior executives are missing the opportunity to cultivate loyalty, trust, and open communication. Encourage your execs to put aside their pride, forget the excuses, and see what they can learn from the newbies.

I’ll get a little personal here. At one my most recent jobs, I had a boss who was always reading books about how to manage millennials, how to run a majority generation Y business, how to bridge the gap between senior executives and incoming employees, etc. I also frequently heard higher level staff discussing the topic over the coffee pot, usually in the form of complaints and dread about the future. Most of the time, I wanted to say, “hey, just ask me!”

What can senior executives get out of a reverse mentorship?

> Technological Skills. This is probably the number one skill every one thinks of when they look at the millennial toolbox. A journalist at the New York Times who mentored a reporter who had been there for 10 years offers an important piece of advice for mentors: slow down! Think blogging, social media, and ephemeral content for potential lessons.

> Eager Beaver Insight. Professionals who have just joined the workforce often spend more time reading about their field, going to networking events, and keeping up with innovation. Who wouldn’t want the inside scoop from all this research without actually having to devote the time to getting it?

> Improved Communication. The more experience that upper-level employees have speaking candidly with their new recruits, the better they’ll be able to communicate with them in the future.

> Competitor and Consumer Knowledge. Competitors come in different forms these days, and it’s not always easy to recognize them at first. According to Morgan McKinley, one problem senior executives have is that they “completely fail to notice start-ups and innovators that enter the market under the radar.” Execs may also miss potential consumers, if they fall into a younger market whose interests and modes of consumption are unrecognized.

Michael Jacobs, General Manager of Microsoft Norway, enjoys  learning from his 28 year-old mentor, “If you want to learn something, you need to explore new ideas. By reversing the mentoring approach, and letting Magnus steer the wheel, I’ve been able to reflect on my own leadership and how it resonates throughout the organization.”

You may encounter a bit of initial resistance from your executives. They’re probably pressed for time, juggling kids and/or elderly parents, have a greater set of financial responsibilities, and don’t want their age brought up at work. Completely understandable. But reverse mentoring sessions allow senior executives to connect and learn new technologies in a more focused environment, while engaging both executives and their new talent. Best of all, you can use your current mentoring system while simply reversing the roles and updating the topics for discussion.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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Kate Mason
kate.mason@ementorconnect.com

Kate Mason is a writer, historian, and stand-up comic living in New Orleans, LA. She is the Programming Coordinator for the New Orleans Film Society and an avid enthusiast of pop culture. She approaches mentoring challenges with a witty, creative mind.

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