Learning & Development

New Trend: Reverse Mentoring by Millennials

What do companies like Microsoft, UnitedHealth, and Target have in common? They are all on board with a formal reverse mentoring program by Millennials.

mentoring

Source: JGalione / E+ / Getty Images

Power Home Remodeling of Chester, Pennsylvania, which Fortune recently named the nation’s number one workplace for Millennials, places a strong emphasis on mentorship and pairing Millennial employees with seasoned leaders in the company.

I’m guessing it was a traditionalist or a Baby Boomer who coined the phrase “experience is the best teacher.” But despite that phrase, Millennials would say that trial, failure, innovation, and being tech-savvy are the best teachers.

In our fast-paced world of social networks, new technology, digital natives, and gamification, the need to keep up has never been greater. By 2020, Millennials will represent half of the global workforce and are already well on their way to becoming the majority.

With multiple generations working in today’s workplace, leaders are challenged with a growing generational gap, shifting expectations, and the need to stay on the leading “digital” edge. As a result, more and more senior executives are turning to their younger colleagues for insight and guidance.

Mentoring is Shifting in Reverse

Traditional mentoring as we know it has shifted into reverse, turning Gen Y into the must-have mentors for senior leaders who want to stay ahead.

The future of work requires leaders who are agile and adaptive, and a key component of this is the ability to be “coached” or “mentored” without “ego.” Age is not a factor when it comes to learning—in fact, the more diverse the places leaders learn from, the more likely there will be an increase in innovation.

Here’s how companies like Microsoft and Target are setting up their reverse mentor programs:

  1. Reverse mentoring sessions take place once every 2 months and span a range of topics.
  2. The focus is on how to improve business, technology, and customer delivery, as well as employee programs.
  3. Goals are set for improved communication for everyone in the company; reverse mentoring encourages ideas and approaches from each generation.
  4. Reverse mentoring sessions are casual and relaxed.

Benefits of Reverse Mentoring

Senior leaders who participate in reverse mentoring benefit from new ideas, a new perspective on leadership, and collaborative innovations. The additional gains include thought sharing, new insights, raising questions, and understanding each other.

By flipping the mentoring relationship, Gen Xers, Ys, and Zs are learning to better collaborate and leverage each other’s strengths. Reverse mentoring, when done well, adds invaluable perspective for both sides of the mentor-mentee relationship—a true win-win.

Reverse mentoring by Millennials increases dialogue and trust and breaks down the barriers of “generational” differences. With the future of work upon us, reverse mentoring is the future of work strategy.

Cheryl Cran
Cheryl Cran is a Future of Work Expert and author of “NextMapping – Anticipate, Navigate and Create the Future of Work.” Cran is also the founder of NextMapping/NextMapping.com and the CEO of parent company Synthesis at Work Inc.