Respect your Youngsters! Why it's a good idea to listen to younger colleagues.

Young, fresh-faced and straight out of university, many inexperienced staff are overlooked when it comes to offering sound advice, but their updated skills, understanding of modernity and their ability to empathize with your younger clients might just give your understanding of contemporary business a boost, well into the 21st century.

Mentoring – Traditional Approach

There’s no doubt our elders are a great source of knowledge and experience in all facets of life. It’s clear that people who have worked in a particular industry for a long time have the knowledge and skills to be able to give excellent advice to their younger counterparts; however, the younger or less experienced generation also have their gems of wisdom!

The older generations tend to see the younger generations as spoiled, lazy, selfish and self-centered, while the younger generations usually see the older generations as stubborn, closed minded and resistant to change. Of course, this is certainly not true in most cases; however, it is a difficult prejudice to overcome in many workplaces.

Many companies are beginning to understand that a top-down approach to staff education isn’t always sufficient – particularly when it comes to the implementation and use of modern technology. As a result, many companies are now giving their junior team members an equal say in decision-making and learning processes. Reverse mentoring is becoming a popular method for building and updating the skills of senior employees, as well as bridging the generational divide.

What is Reverse Mentoring

During the reverse mentoring process, a junior team member is paired up with a senior team member for the purpose of exchanging skills and knowledge relating to work. The more experienced team member offers the usual mentoring guidance, while the younger person offers their knowledge of things like new and existing technologies, modern inclusions in their own education and their advice on how the older team member can successfully connect with younger clients or customers.

This concept works spectacularly for the purpose of filling the skill gaps on both sides and allowing the exchange of information that can reinforce strengths and eliminate weaknesses. There has often been a culture of workplace stereotyping, based on the different social and cultural variances between generations.

Simple steps when implementing a successful reverse mentoring program in your workplace

Reverse mentoring can help colleagues see through these stereotypes and get to know the positive attributes of their older or younger generations.

Step#1 Carefully consider good pairings

Don’t just randomly pair mentor partnerships. First, discover what everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, skills and experiences are, and pair mentors up based on this. Obviously, it’s a good idea to have an in-depth knowledge of your employee’s relationship climate – you don’t want to be pairing people up who really don’t like each other in the first place! This may work to force opposites to cooperate, but more likely, you’ll end up with arguments on your hands.

Step#2 Be realistic about expectations and goals

Some mentor relationships will blossom and be extremely effective in their exchange of skills and knowledge. Some people will roll their eyes at the whole situation and not take it seriously. Others may feel they just don’t have the time. Regardless, it is a good idea to let your mentorship teams discuss with each other exactly what they expect out of the relationship prior to implementation. Check with your teams regularly to ensure each mentor/mentee is acting in a mutually beneficial manner and re-assign partnerships if needed.

Step#3 Measure progress

Ask your mentorship teams to record their progress to ensure everybody is getting something valuable out of the relationships. If not, sit down with each individual and discuss what they feel could be done to improve the relationship.

Is it the right fit for you?

There may also be issues when a reverse mentoring program is first implemented. The older generations may be resistant to taking advice from their younger counterparts if they believe they have nothing of value to offer. Younger generations may – as a result – feel hesitant to speak up and give feedback to older teammates. Because of this, decision makers will have to carefully consider the mentoring partnerships to personalize the pairings in a manner that they believe will work.

The CFS Team
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