-By Diana Pierce-
Last week, while I was talking with a business colleague, I shared a story about reverse mentoring. It stemmed from my reading a New York Times story that shared a Boomer reporter’s point of view about being trained by a Millennial to use Snapchat. My business colleague’s comment was, “Even we’ve hired a 20- something someone to handle our social media role online.” His response seemed less than enthusiastic about the need for a social media expert. His comment also showed me this would be a great opportunity for him and his new hire to do some reverse mentoring.
So why is reverse mentoring popping up more? Last year, Millennials officially surpassed the Baby Boomer generation as the largest living generation. By 2020, they will be one-third of the workforce globally.
As companies move forward with on-the-job training, many companies are seeing that reverse mentoring can bridge the gap between what Millennials bring to the table and how senior leaders can share their ladder-climbing expertise.
A recent Harvard Business Review poll shows Millennials want coaching and mentoring from their bosses. Millennials also want to learn job skills, creativity and innovation strategies from their place of work. Boomer bosses and those that are younger should take note because these are the keys that open the doors to reverse mentoring.
According to Entrepreneur Magazine, Millennials can be great resources for new and innovative ideas. Bosses can exchange their expertise with their younger workers as they challenge each other to better results.
Amy Jo, one young woman I’ve met recently, shared with me that her mentor meets with her once a week and has for over a year. That model is more a traditional mentoring program as Amy Jo drives the weekly conversations. I also talked with her mentor, Brian, her company’s C.O.O., who told me that he loves his mentor role and has learned a lot from Amy Jo, too. Brian confided that what a lot of businesses are currently missing is the “Art of People,” or in other words, a connection to our social needs. In 1943, American psychologist Abraham Maslow gave us a good look at what healthy human beings need and it’s explained well in this article. It seems that the mentoring and reverse mentoring of Amy Jo and Brian meet the two upper levels of the hierarchy of needs with their co-encouragement, co-creativity, and problem solving.
Brian also shared that a lot of “coaching” can be self-serving for the coach, meaning the “coach” ends up telling the employee what to do. He says it’s typically a one-way conversation and when the knowledge is passed on, the relationship plateaus or ends. Mentoring, for Brian, is completely different. He says he’s passionate about what he does because now the mentee gains knowledge and perspective while allowing the relationship to continue to grow and not plateau.
What Brian says he’s learned about reverse mentoring is Millennials want to “work to live,” where he finds Millennials have more passion and commitment for what they do and not “live to work” which is what most Boomers experienced.
In the end, it’s about shaking things up to gain a fresh viewpoint. Reverse mentoring is needed to propel good companies into the next level of great companies.
If you have a great reverse mentoring story, tell me about it – Diana@dianapierce.com