Here's a new one: Who are the hottest coaches and mentors for boomer executives these days?

It's not the $500 per hour kind. It's the kind down the hall from your office with their AirPods in.

Millennials.

Before you spit out your Gen-Y approved fair-trade coffee, hold on a second.

In a delicious turn of events, boomer executives everywhere are scrambling to pair up with twenty-somethings that have plenty of something to offer (including helping them become tech-savvy, understand today's workforce, get into the now, and get out of the Van Halen era). Thus, millennials have become the hottest executive accessory.   

A New York Times report added credence to the trend, citing companies such as MasterCard, Cisco, Target, UnitedHealth Group, and Mars that have implemented reverse mentoring programs that match furrow-browed executives with bushy-tailed counterparts, some that are even fresh out of college. 

It's a low-priced alternative to companies that prey on our fear of what we don't know about those darned kids (companies that can make as much as $20,000 per hour according to the Times). Entrepreneurs and small businesses take note.

Here are 11 reasons to reach out to a Millennial mentor:

1. Get tech savvy.

It's no longer okay that you don't know what Snapchat is or how to use it.  Your younger co-workers use it--it's how they communicate. Your daughter uses it--it's how she fails to communicate. Your target audience uses it--it's how they're evolving to communicate.

It's good to learn new things, and it's good business.

2. Learn new markets and trends, innovate. Repeat.

The marketplace is littered with companies that let the evolving consumer pass them by.  Can't get out to that focus group to learn about the latest wants and needs? Hold one in the conference room. Just make sure it's an open floor plan conference room.

3. Improve retention.

This reason alone makes it worth finding a Millennial mentor.  How can you possibly know what your younger workforce wants if you don't know what your younger workforce wants? Don't read about it. Relate about it.

4. Better identify high-potentials.

Reverse mentorships mean Boomers are exposed to more young talent.  Such exposure increases the odds of an accurate assessment of talent and a building of the right bench for the executive suite.

5. Embrace purpose.

Odds are, when a Boomer meets up with a Millennial, the former gets a lesson in what really matters at work from the latter. It's well documented that Millennials aren't motivated as much by perks or pay; it's about the purpose behind their work. Finding out how they articulate theirs can help you define yours--and infuse more energy and fulfillment into your work days.

6. Fight obsolescence.

There, I said it. 

We have enough to worry about fighting off machines for jobs. Who wants to fight off a Millennial for one? Don't try to beat them, join them. Improve your skills by expanding your horizons.

7. Get hipper and younger.

The Times article reported on one bank managing partner who had "rediscovered his youth" via his Millennial mentor.  I'm not sure such a mentor could help me relive the joy of Happy Days episodes, but surely I'll feel a little more hip because of the relationship. 

8. Build a more connected workplace.

Learning to connect with Millennials means learning to connect with the workforce in general (Millennials are now the largest work cohort). Spending time bridging the generation gap means building a happier workplace for all.

9. Return the favor.

Many Boomers are reluctant to become mentors because of time constraints or a myriad of other reasons. The law of reciprocity says you probably should offer to mentor the Millennial right back. What a wonderful virtuous cycle.

10. Get inspired.

Exposure to different, energetic points of view can inspire all kinds of things.  Research indicates the number one thing that distinguishes entrepreneurial leaders from more conventional ones is an openness to new experiences. So go experience.  

11. Sharpen your listening skills.

That's right. You might not be in a situation quite as often anymore where you're the one taking notes. It's good for you, and for your listening aptitude. 

So Boomers, pick up a Millennial today, they're available in all colors, shapes, and sizes.  But move fast--not because quantities are limited, but because we'll all be looking to Gen Z'ers before you know it.

Fashion can be so cruel.

Published on: Oct 17, 2017