Venki Rao, the CIO of General Electric’s digital energy division, has seen this first-hand. He discovered this fact four years ago at GE’s IT Leadership Program, where he realized that millennials had a lot to offer the older generation of workers. In terms of new technologies, mobile apps, and social media, millennials have the upper hand. The reason for this is simply that millennials have literally grown up with technology in their hands, and they have grown to understand it in a way that Gen X’ers and baby boomers would be jealous of.
Rao (not a millennial) realized this distinction in the millennial generation, and came to the conclusion that millennials should work together with the older generation to collaborate and innovate in their respective industries. He experimented with letting interns reverse-mentor himself, and soon afterward, he put a program in place which let his other 18 senior staff members take part in the same kind of training. He argues that this practice allows executives to learn what makes millennials tick, and that’s important for the future–when millennials will make up most of the workforce and will have to be managed by knowledgeable executives.
Other companies, such as the well-known network component manufacturer Cisco, have also experimented with this idea, and found that Rao’s ideas were, in fact, true. Cisco’s 55-year-old vice president Lance Perry has spent time with a group of millennial mentors to learn more about social media and blogging, and found it substantially beneficial to both parties involved. It even led to increased productivity in the workplace.
If a reverse-mentoring program sounds like something you would be interested in integrating into your business, you can try these following tips:
- Identify where your executives could use the most help. If you know what parts of technology have your senior staff itching to learn more, you can better concentrate on that.
- Make sure your millennial mentor candidates are able to work with the senior staff. In other words, make sure that your candidates are of a quality breed. If your business employs interns, you might be able to get them in on the experience.
- Prove to your senior staff that millennials have skills that can benefit them. If they see with their own eyes what your millennial employees are capable of, they will be more likely to sign onto your program.
- Create a formal structure for your mentoring program. This should include having a set number of goals and curriculum which should be discussed.
- Acquire feedback. With more information about what works and what doesn’t for the mentor program, you can configure it to work more efficiently in the future.
What reverse-mentoring comes down to is good communication between two parties, which can be greatly enhanced by using the right technologies. This will also give millennials a sense of ownership, which in general, is a factor in how engaged they are at the workplace.
Do you think that millennials in your office can teach you a thing or two about technology? Or, as a millennial yourself, do you feel like your workplace can better attract and manage the workers of your generation? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.