Millennials are typically more interested than previous generations in finding a mentor. They have grown up with the notion that one must constantly seek the advice of someone else. This has especially been true since the advent of social media.
But Millennials typically want mentoring to be more of a two-way road than it’s been in the past. Today’s workplaces have seen the rise of “reverse mentoring” in which younger people typically mentor the older worker 20% of the time while the more experienced employee advises the younger person roughly 80% of the time.
Boomers and Millennials need to embrace reverse mentoring. It is part of the postmodern worldview that they have been raised with; they believe that their ideas are important and valuable. If you don’t listen, Millennials aren’t likely to respect you.
Consider: You have invaluable knowledge that demands to be shared, but in this technological age so do Millennials! They typically understand emerging technologies and social media trends better than older generations, and they can often teach us more than a thing or two.
But I would emphasize that reverse mentoring goes well beyond learning technological trends. I have been mentoring a Millennial in my profession for a number of years, and I have found her very eager to learn and good at coming up with ideas I hadn’t thought of. On the other hand, mentoring her has made me realize I am aware of many things she is not simply because I have a lot more experience than she does – areas that I’ve taken for granted that are actually revelations to someone younger! It’s been a very reciprocal arrangement in which I have made her aware of areas she doesn’t know, while she (or most any Millennial) is very good at pumping new ideas and energy into a possibly stale work environment.
Karl Moore, a writer and mentor, adds, “As a manager, I have to make a point of giving more thought to providing more feedback than to previous generations of workers. It used to be more of an afterthought, but today I must more actively spend time thinking about not only a couple of points of feedback, but four or five pieces of feedback.”
Further, Millennials are used to searching for and choosing their own mentors. In fact, mandatory corporate mentoring programs are likely to feel forced and unauthentic. Millennials are more likely to find it difficult to connect with an individual that they do not personally deem relevant.
Rather than focus on your differences, why not join forces? Step up to the plate, embrace a mentoring role, and accept whoever comes forward. Identify and utilize each other’s strengths. Millennials are the inevitable leaders of tomorrow and older workers have the ability to nourish the growth of these young employees. As the saying goes, it’s a real win-win.
Part III of this series will conclude with a look at how to motivate a multi-generational workforce.