Millennials are extremely confident in their technical job abilities. And why not, they are the most educated generation, in addition to being the largest. They have been encouraged to excel at every stage of life. So as intellectual thinkers, it is only natural they want (expect) to offer their thoughts and ideas to the development of their organization’s strategy.
One of the generational gaps experienced in the workplace today is the skepticism of more experienced employees in their younger colleagues’ ability to develop an effective strategy, and then successfully execute it. There is some validity to this uncertainty. For many Millennials, their first work experience follows graduating from college. With competing academic and required extra-curricular activities, many individuals born between 1981 and 2000 did not have time to also work before the age of twenty-two.
The antidote to this generational ability quandary can be new forms of mentoring. The Millennial generation is questioning the status quo and pushing change in all aspects of the workplace. These disruptions are spurring new, innovative approaches, including to mentoring.
In years past, a younger person would identify a mentor from whom they would learn and emulate. Now, mentors come in all shapes, sizes, age and experience levels. Forward-thinking organizations are leveraging mentoring in fresh, new, and fun ways. And in the process, executives are discovering creative ideas to business challenges, while offering guidance, based on their experience, on deep strategic thinking and how to execute effectively — a win-win for mentors and mentees.
Here are some examples of how.
Reverse Mentoring to Tackle a Critical Business Issue: Reverse Mentoring teams an experienced, often an executive, with a less experienced, lower-level employee. Many businesses are using this mentoring approach to brainstorm ideas for breaking down barriers to company growth or an internal problem. For example, defining and testing new social media approaches to modernize a brand and enliven the company’s external communications, changing corporate culture from a fearful environment to an empowered environment to do the right thing for customers and other employees, to reversing low employee engagement rates and high voluntary turnover. The lower-level employees provide executives with a deep view into ideas and opinions of the company’s employees. And the mentees are excited by their opportunity to contribute to strategic issues. Some CEOs have gone so far as to create a team of less experienced employees, with just one executive sponsor, to tackle these types of issues.
“Speed-Dating” Mentoring Too Improve Cross Organizational Communication: A universal business challenge continues to be communication. Many employee satisfaction surveys point to the lack of understanding by employees of corporate strategy or other internal information. “Speed-dating” mentoring offers lower-level employees the opportunity to ask executives clarifying questions about the company during their allotted time. Employees appreciate the deeper understanding of the company vision, desired culture and strategy. And executives gain insight into what employees think and understand about the company strategy and why employees may not be living the desired culture.
Group Mentoring to Stimulate Innovative Ideation: Many employees are creating a new form of mentoring, group mentoring. In companies where employees are empowered, they leverage this trust to organize groups of their peers and sometimes next level managers on their own, to brainstorm a new market opportunity or company issues. These groups are defining innovative solutions that are moving their company forward at accelerated rates.
Although the definition and approach to mentoring is evolving, the benefits are unwavering. Organizations who invest in the development of mentoring programs experience boosted employee development, engagement, retention and improved profitability. And they provide younger employees the opportunity for accelerated career growth and development by offering a forum to contribute to the strategic initiatives of the organization.