The mentor model is built on the assumption that the more seasoned and successful among us will show the younger ones the ropes. While younger employees still learn from mentors, companies that want to appeal to them might need to rethink the paradigm.
Younger employees want to be guided, of course, and they appreciate the willingness of a more experienced worker to do so. Millennials know they have a lot to learn and are eager to do so. They value the career support and knowledge transfer, but they also feel they can contribute something in the process and respond well to “reverse mentoring” opportunities— an innovative and cost-effective way to share knowledge, while building bridges across generations.
Reverse mentoring programs help organizations spread their collective knowledge across the ranks. They help younger employees—who give as much as they get—grow, share and feel more connected. They can also help older ones get caught up on the newest technologies, social media tools and market swings.
Now, I’m not a fan of forced mentoring programs, but on a voluntary basis they can be highly effective. Younger employees gain the wisdom their older colleagues acquired through the ages, while older workers can get practical tips that will help them overcome contemporary challenges. More importantly, they can set the stage for a more cooperative culture across all age groups. With the right type of social recognition program in place, you can promote, acknowledge and reward those who participate in them.