Work-life expectancy is expanding. As Work-life expectancy increases, we may find that we are still employed at the age of 75, extending the number of overlaps between different generations. It is believed that by the year 2020, we may have 5 different generations at the workplace (often referred to as generational ‘cohorts’). We are now looking at even more – 10, 20, 50 years from now. There could be seven generations at work at a time and crash against each other. Going forward, the challenge for business would be to integrate these generations at the workplace. One of the positive aspects, however, is the fact that this diversity will bring in a wide array of skill sets that can complement each other. Businesses will be driven by a maze of simple and complex set of skills and it will be imperative to bring a multitude of skill-sets and attitudes into play.
Consequently, a serious mental shift would need to be made on the part of individuals to accept that skill-sets may need to be managed across generations and that one generation may not possess all the relevant skills needed to drive an organization. Strengths and weaknesses of individuals need to be complemented as nearly all the skills may be available, literally, under one roof.
In this emerging scenario, it will be imperative on the part of organizational work-force to exchange ideas and at a very basic level, learn through each other cutting across generational boundaries. This may translate into exchanging ideas and skills with ‘millennials’ or Gen Y in the team.
The crisscross of learning will happen both ways – ‘older’ workers to ‘younger’ workers and also vice-versa. This will also serve as an important behavior that will keep ‘generations’ bonded together for the realization of larger organizational objectives. One of the enablers to catalyze this phenomenon is ‘Reverse Mentoring’ – an initiative through which Leaders become ‘Mentees’ and tap into Gen Y ideas.
Globally, by 2020, nearly half of the workforce will be millennials. India will become the world’s youngest country with 64% of its population in the working age group. Organizations would definitely like to tap into this class of the workforce to stay updated and on top of things. Technology, ways of working, current trends and lifestyles, social media are some of the areas where older and senior leaders and team members are being mentored by younger employees.
‘Reverse Mentoring’ can work in different ways as given hereunder:
- A forum of millennials elected by their own members can act as a parallel board to the executive committee. The Gen Y can have a strong say in the decisions that shape the company’s future.
- Organizations are, increasingly, sensing tangible benefits through reverse mentoring – getting young employees to mentor the senior leadership on areas such as technology, flexible ways of working, social media skills and people engagement.
- ‘Reverse Mentoring’ is another way through which generational gap can be bridged. It also demonstrates from an organization culture perspective that learning across generations can be a great binding force and highly enriching for all concerned.
- Selected millennials reverse mentor the senior leadership, including the executive committee and business heads on various digital tools. This leads to a mutual two-way learning and sharing, wherein the senior leadership gets a perspective in terms of how the young generations think.
How to create an ongoing and successful ‘Reverse Mentoring’ partnership: 5 Steps
The following steps may come in handy when one is trying to forge an ongoing ‘Reverse Mentoring’ relationship.
Identify good potential partners
An effective mentoring relationship has, as its basis, the sound chemistry between engaging professionals. It is important to complement each other’s skills. Hence, it is important to identify weaknesses that an individual wants to redeem and the potential partner must be able to fill this void through the mentoring process. Personal analysis of strengths and weaknesses can help here.
Set clear goals and expectations
It is important to answer questions upfront such as – What do we want out of the engagement? What skills and competencies are we likely to influence? When and where would the meetings take place? Whether goals are defined and in mutual agreement?
Align the communication needs and preferences
Different generations have varying communication preferences. It will help to align the communication preference (whether it will be over the phone, e-mail, instant messaging, video calling) and both the mentor as well as the mentee must be on the same page on this aspect to avoid delays and confusion.
Be tactful, patient and open minded
It is imperative to remain flexible and open-minded and this is true for both the mentor as well as the mentee. Active listening and not being biased are key ingredients that need to be kept in mind during the engagement.
Measure progress based on goals formulated
A quick judgment of the progress will lead to growth in the relationship and also provide enough room for mid-course corrections if needed. New ways to achieve goals can also surface based on the understanding of progress.
The above steps also ensure that reverse mentoring remains a two-way framework and the mentor, as well as the mentee, are able to leverage the relationship for their individual and organizational growth over a period of time. Talent engagement is a key issue in most organizations across the spectrum and it is here that reverse mentoring can make a positive impact on nurturing and retaining talent.