Mentoring: It Works Both Ways

A lot has been published about millennials and their style in the workplace. For example, I bet you’ve heard plenty about how demanding they are, wanting almost constant feedback to help them improve and advance their careers. That’s really not a surprise. As Amy Adkins and Brandon Rigoni write in their Gallup Business Journal article, millennials have grown up experiencing almost constant connectedness and are used to immediate feedback from parent, teachers, and coaches.

According to Gallup research, frequent meetings with their managers increases engagement of younger workers, and meeting at least once a week gave the best results. The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey reported that millennials intending to stay with their company for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor (68%) than not (32%). Additionally, 94% say their mentor is providing good advice.

So, yes, millennials want lots of good feedback and effective mentoring. On the other hand, they have valuable skills and knowledge too, and are happy to share it. As a matter of fact, they’d love to. You may have to ask, but mentoring with millennials can go both ways.

Keeping on top of technology

The development of technology outpaces educational and training materials designed to keep employees up to speed with the latest. Staying current can be overwhelming to many in the workplace, and here is where millennials definitely have the edge.

I can remember life before computers. Certainly before mobile devices and the rise of social media. Younger employees can’t. Not only are they skilled in the use of ever-changing technology, they also understand how social media works and can be used to company advantage in marketing and understanding customers.

Millennials like to be taken seriously when they have something to contribute. Who doesn’t?  “Reverse mentoring” is one way to let them know we are listening.

Pairing up with executives

In reverse mentoring, senior leaders are paired with younger, tech-savvy employees who can help keep them up to speed with newer technology. The senior executives must be open and willing to admit that they have something to learn from their young mentors. Training mentors and matching them with mentees are part of the process.

In her article How HR Can Support Reverse Mentoring, Tamar Lytle provides three examples of successful matches between younger employees and senior executives. For example, Dave Hattem, AXA Equitable Life Insurance Co., learned how to use a variety of apps, social media, and other technology from his millennial mentor Jérémie Berthon.

While technology is often the focus, other areas are also explored. Dan Ohman, CEO, central region, for UnitedHealthcare, learned that millennial customers were not only concerned about the quality of care, but were equally interested in the speed of access and customer service.

This type of mentoring benefits younger employees as well. They learn from senior leaders’ experience and insight into the company and successful business and leadership practices while developing collegial relationships that will continue after formal mentoring sessions have ended. Reverse mentoring also contributes to employee sense of connectedness and engagement.

While reverse mentoring often involves traditional, one-on-one meetings scheduled once a month for a six months or a year, other, less formal styles are emerging. Sharing success stories and examples in newsletters, one-time meetings, and attending gatherings of young professionals can become informal mentoring sessions.

In her article, Lytle includes a story of CEO of OgilvyOne Worldwide, Brian Fetherstonhaugh, attending an early morning dance party on a boat with his mentor and several other young employees! He has asked millennial employees to help on a variety of projects and invites members of the company’s Young Professional Network to attend company events.

Company wins

When individuals at an organization benefit from the reverse mentoring, the company does too. “Wins” include increased employee engagement, better communication between employees of different generations, improved company culture, and positioning younger employees to assume positions of leadership.

Making the most of your technology

More efficient use of technology the company already owns is another positive outcome. For example, modern Human Resource Management Systems, like Sage HRMS, are packed with functionality that often goes untapped. Millennials familiarity with and understanding of technology make them a natural to help others learn how to take advantage of Sage HRMS features that are underutilized, like designing a custom page that automatically tracks company property or mass updating custom details.

Reverse mentoring is a good reminder that no matter our age or where we fall in the company hierarchy, we can all learn from one another.

Is your technology up to date?

With their tech savvy, millennials expect business technology to mirror what they use every day. How’s your company doing?  If you’d like to learn more about Sage HRMS, Sage HRMS HR Actions (provides paperless forms and workflow throughout the employee life cycle), or the numerous plugins that extend its functionality, visit our website or give us a call at 1.888.421.2004.

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Mary van Balen
Mary van Balen
Technical Writer at Delphia Consulting
Mary van Balen is based out of Columbus, Ohio and is a writer for Delphia Consulting. Mary contributes to the Delphia blog on Human Resources issues and Delphia Consulting and Sage product related updates.