Engage The Multi-Gen Workforce
In the last issue, we learned a few tips about managing multiple generations at the workplace. We now know if an organization wants to survive in today’s market and have a competitive advantage over its competitors, it has to embrace this phenomenon of having a multi-generational workforce. While a lot has been written about the characteristics of each generation at play, there is also a lot written about what each generation brings to the workplace. Keeping these in mind, let’s look at what organizations are doing to keep its multi-generational workforce engaged. . .
Today, several organizations put in place a robust diversity and inclusion strategy, which is in line with its overall business strategy. Employee Resource Groups play a big role in integrating an organization’s diversity and inclusion strategy with business goals. Given the demographics of today’s workforce, many organizations are running Employee Resource Groups solely focusing on bringing about more collaboration between generations.
One of the most popular initiatives run by these Employee Resource Groups focusing on Generational Diversity is “Reverse Mentoring” - an initiative where older executives are paired with and mentored by younger employees on several topics – the most popular ones being technology, social media, and current trends. In today’s technologically advanced workspaces, reverse mentoring or ‘Flipped Leadership’ is seen as a way to bring older employees up to speed in areas that are second nature to the millennials.
While mentoring is traditionally perceived and practiced as having a one-way benefit – younger employees learn from and gain valuable knowledge from older, more experienced colleagues - given today’s multi-generational workforce, it is becoming increasingly important for all to generations understand each other, to be able to work together. While in traditional forms of mentoring younger employees gain from their mentors’ experiences and knowledge, the concept of reverse mentoring is more reciprocal where both parties gain from each other’s knowledge and expertise. Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, made this concept popular back in the 1990s. At that time, the use of the Internet was becoming very prevalent and Jack Welch felt his management had much to learn, so he mandated that he, along with his top executives, take on reverse mentors.
Although the idea behind reverse mentoring is to get senior executives on board with emerging trends, it is also a good way to get them to think differently and take into consideration its multi-generational workforce. When organizations are talking about innovation every step of the way, a reverse mentoring partnership can be a good stepping stone towards innovation, where the mentors help their senior mentees look at new and efficient ways of working.
Like any other partnership, there is a give and take in a reverse mentoring partnership as well. Reverse mentoring can have huge impacts on organizations. While the senior executives learn about the latest trends from their young mentees, the millennials gain valuable insight and knowledge that their counterparts bring to the table following their decades of business experience. This results in both parties becoming more productive individually, as well as strengthens the relationships between them to create more solid teamwork. The young mentor also has an opportunity to learn more about the business and get insider views on industry practices.
Like any program, however, there are challenges in running a Reverse Mentoring program as well. One of the biggest challenges is the senior executives’ apprehension to learn from less experienced colleagues. To ensure a successful programme, it is important for leaders to have the right attitude about learning from somebody younger and less experienced because one can never stop growing and learning, no matter how prestigious their title is. In case of apprehension from senior executives, it is up to the CEO to set the tone at the top by becoming a mentee.
For organizations that have realized the importance of keeping all generations engaged is half the battle won. Initiatives like Reverse Mentoring further enhances the dialogue between generations, thus creating a more inclusive workplace culture.