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How Millennials Can Mentor Boomers

These three steps can help you set up a reverse mentoring program to keep your team at the cutting edge.
PHOTO CREDIT: RIVER SIREN/FLICKR

Typically, when we think about mentoring or coaching, we're really thinking about experienced employees taking younger employees under their wing.

There are plenty of good reasons for this. Mentoring helps get young talent acclimated to your culture and processes. It also helps to keep turnover low. Mentoring, it turns out, is the number one thing young employees want from their employer.

But there's another kind of mentorship you can use at your company, and it works basically in reverse. When it comes to helping senior employees identify the latest trends and technology, who better to help than those closest to them: their younger counterparts.

The Financial Times recently wrote about some of the companies championing reverse mentoring programs, and how it benefits both parties, from helping younger employees form a stronger bond that they might in a traditional mentor system to helping an older employee understand how to best use LinkedIn. 

Let's take a look at three principles from the article for setting up a system at your company.

1. Make it mutually beneficial.
While the senior employee is the one who theoretically benefits from exposure to the younger employee in a reverse mentorship, the younger employee should gain something as well. If your organization already features a traditional mentorship program, which it should, it might make sense to restructure your existing traditional mentorships into a two-way street encompassing both parties' personal development.

2. Sell it.
The suggestion that your older employees could learn a thing or two from the younger could, unfortunately, come with the chance of backlash. To mitigate it, you need to make sure you spell out how the company and the senior employees stand to benefit. In particular, the Financial Times notes, make sure you're not suggesting that the senior employees' skills are redundant compared to their youthful counterparts.

3. Think beyond tech.
From a skills gap perspective, technology figures to be the place where your younger employees can most help. But consider a reverse mentorship an opportunity to think outside the purely vocational. For instance, this is a great way to expose your employees--both older and younger--to generational differences that will help them better think about your company and their jobs both now and in the future.

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