Treasury and finance executives with years of experience may think they’re too old for a mentor—especially a younger, more junior colleague. Here’s why that attitude is wrong.
There’s actually a lot to be learned from younger, millennial counterparts. In fact, reverse mentoring programs are gaining in popularity and are especially helpful in organizations that may traditionally be old school and not as nimble when it comes to understanding millennials in the workplace.
The top four benefits to a reverse mentoring program:
Value proposition: Regardless of the industry, most work today is collaborative and the ability to work together is valued highly. Millennials have been educated in collaboration and many understand teamwork and can pass these skills along to their older co-workers. Millennials are also more adapted to a results oriented workplace, meaning that they don’t mind working a various range of hours in different locations to get the job done. On the flip side, older employees feel like they need to show their face in the office from the standard 8 a.m.-6 p.m. schedule. This way of working is a very different mindset for older employees and millennials can help show the value in how they accomplish their work and in turn could create a further work-life balance culture.
Bridging the knowledge gap: One of the biggest benefits to a reverse mentoring program is bridging the gap between millennials and other employees. Millennials are much more comfortable working with technology and often companies turn to them for technological help. By formalizing this relationship, millennials can work with older employees to teach them about social media and other technology-related systems that might be helpful in the workplace.
Gaining perspective: A reverse mentoring program helps employees see things from a different perspective. By pairing an older worker with a younger employee, the younger employee can show the older employee their perspective and the reasons why and how they might do something differently. Understanding a different perspective will help the older employees grow and evolve in new directions.
Building relationships: Employees tend to develop friendships and relationships with the people whom they work most closely with, which is typically going to be someone doing a similar job to them and likely is going to be similar in age to them. This tends to create an unintended “class” system with groups of employees segregated by age. A reverse mentoring program can help break down this class system and aid in facilitating relationships among different levels and ages of employees.
Building your program
For a mentoring program to work, it needs to be formalized and deliberate. Both employees should understand that this program is supported by the organization and is valued as a driver for company success. There are a few specific steps that can be followed to ensure success with your program.
- Establish objectives. To set your objectives, think about the goals that you hope each employee will get out of the program. Having clear objectives will help you develop a program that is more likely to have a positive impact on the organization. With clearly outlined objectives, you’ll also be able to also set up metrics to measure the success of your program.
- Find a champion on the executive team. This champion acts as the program liaison. Not only will they be instrumental in educating employees about the program, but they will also play a key role in recruiting other executives, the older mentees, to see the benefits and participate.
- Build the mentee/mentor relationships. Be deliberate when setting up pairings. You may decide to set up pairings within departments or cross-functionally. Think about where relationships need this boost and focus them accordingly.
- Establish guidelines and parameters for the meetings. Let the groups know what to expect from the meetings. Giving the pairings topics for discussion will help the program achieve your outlined objectives.
- Review the program’s success. Evaluate the program and the pairings regularly. Ask the mentors and mentees their thoughts and tweak the program accordingly.
Shifting the mentoring gears in reverse offers both employees a new perspective and the knowledge necessary to move a company forward. At the same time, with older employees learning from younger and vice versa, mentoring can be a two-way street creating a partnership of learning where both employees benefit.
Nancy Saperstone is a senior HR business partner with Insight Performance, a human resources and benefits consulting company.
A longer version of this article will appear in an upcoming edition of AFP Exchange.