I’ve always thought workplace mentoring programs, both formal and informal, were crucial to companies developing and retaining successful employees. I was fortunate to have had an incredible mentor early in my career. I learned a lot about office politics and the unwritten rules in the workplace; received ongoing, honest feedback regarding my performance; and unwavering support in navigating my career. Back then, mentoring was largely one way. The traditional older manager mentors the younger inexperienced mentee. Today, Millennials tend to have multiple mentors, including peers and coaches. The term Reciprocal Mentoring may be familiar to many of you, but it is new to me. Reverse Mentoring (also new to me) and Reciprocal Mentoring, are often used interchangeably. However, the word “reverse” implies that the knowledge exchange is moving in one direction, from lower to higher management or from younger to older. I prefer the term Reciprocal Mentoring, which involves guidance and the transfer of knowledge back and forth within the organization. These concepts have been around, and championed by some Fortune 500 companies for a decade or so, but seem to be picking up with the increasingly fast pace of technology in business.
Boomers and Generation X’ers have invaluable knowledge and experience to share in the workplace. But let’s face it, in this technological age, so do Millennials. There has become a widening ability gap favoring the youngest people in the office relative to senior members with regard to social media. Millennials understand emerging technologies and social media trends better than the older generations and can teach us more than a thing or two (and maybe help secure our jobs!). In return, older, experienced employees offer important tools like corporate strategy, goals, and management experience. They can point the Millennial know-how in the direction to benefit the company. Companies also want to understand what type of digital presence will engage Millennial consumers, and there is nothing better than asking some bona fide members of that generation for their input on these issues. They have a wealth of ideas, but they need the direction that seasoned management can supply.
Millennials are typically more interested than previous generations in finding a mentor. They are accustomed to getting feedback and advice from one another via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. They actively seek feedback. Millennials are aware that they lack some crucial elements in order to move forward. They view mentors as meaningful contributors to their personal growth.
In addition to learning new skill sets critical to the continued success of each generation in the workplace, Reciprocal Mentoring involves these generations expanding relationships beyond their comfort zones, and can result in unexpected and innovative ideas and outcomes.
Why not step up and establish a Reciprocal Mentor relationship with someone in the workplace of another generation? It’s a great opportunity to better understand generational differences, and identify and utilize one another’s strengths. It is a win-win situation for all parties.
Share your workplace mentoring experiences with us. Do you think Reciprocal Mentoring works?