When we hear “mentor,” most of us picture an older, wiser person who has many years of work experience. But it doesn’t always have to be like that.
In these days of smartphone technology, e-books and social media, those who have not seen the inside of a classroom in years have as much to learn from the younger workforce as the other way around. Whether it’s a computer guru demonstrating where there are security lapses or innovative methods for reaching a target market, there is a lot to learn from the “plugged in” generation.
Make it formal or informal
Good managers are not embarrassed to ask younger employees for instruction on a particular skill. This could take the form of Lunch ‘n’ Learn sessions for the entire group or one-on-one sessions. Since this concept is quite different from the traditional organizational pyramid, it may require senior management communicating that reverse mentoring is part of the company culture to stay truly innovative. For example, Procter & Gamble sponsors a “Mentor-Up” program that pairs a junior-level manager with a senior-level manager. This program continually provides seniorwith valuable insights into policy, business strategy and work-life issues.
Be where the action is
Social media is one area where the younger employees can provide insight to seasoned veterans. More than 80 percent of Americans belong to a social network, and it can be an invaluable and inexpensive way to reach your target market. Let your employees who are active users show you how to advertise your products and services and receive important feedback from customers.
Why does reverse mentoring work so well? The same reasons traditional mentoring does. We become more culturally aware, learn new skills and increase our creative thinking. Whether it is a more formal, companywide process or an impromptu session with an employee, reverse mentoring can ensure that all employees stay on top of their game.