Author: Alistair Cox, CEO, Hays plc
I’ve always believed that you’re never too senior to learn something new, and that lifelong learning and success are inextricably linked. So, when I read an article in our latest Hays Journal about millennial mentorship (when senior-level executives are coached by younger recruits), it really sparked my interest.
Over the past decade or so, it’s been fascinating to see how the traditional image of the mentor has been radically turned on its head. And now, particularly in the corporate world, many innovative employers are encouraging reverse mentorship - this is great to see.
Granted, this is a relatively new phenomenon, so I thought it would be helpful to summarise a few of the key arguments in support of millennial mentorship, as well as feedback from business leaders who have hands-on experience in introducing this type of programme within their organisations.
1. You’ll see the world from a different point of view
Inga Beale, CEO of Lloyd’s of London, who meets regularly with a 19-year-old mentor from the insurance firm’s apprentice scheme, says reverse mentoring is about creating a workforce that reflects the world around us. “We need to be reminded of what’s happening in the world and how the new generation thinks and behaves and wants different things,” she says. “I take ideas and inspiration from all the young people I work with. This helps me to think about how we can do things differently and appeal to that generation.”
Kathy Poole, Interim Group HR Director at Air Partner, says it helps put senior executives in touch with the future. “Youngsters often come with fresh perspectives, open minds and, most importantly, an intuitive approach to new technology and ideas. Reverse mentoring schemes help organisations tap into this huge resource to the benefit of all.”
Richard Daniel Curtis, CEO of The Mentoring School, agrees: “I think many companies are interested because it gives them a unique insight into how the younger generations view their products, processes or the use of technology,”
2. It’ll help inform your business strategy
These differing perspectives gained as a result of reverse mentoring can help you better shape your business strategy. Donna Miller, European HR Director at Enterprise Rent-a-Car explains: “Many of our older employees have been with the business for a long time and started working in a branch many years previously, while our younger, generally millennial, employees are now closest to our customers at the branch,” she notes. “Their experiences and insights are invaluable in informing the business strategy, and this is an enormous benefit of having reverse mentoring.”
3. You’ll promote a culture of lifelong learning
I've written before about how promoting a culture of lifelong learning amongst your employees is key to retaining your top talent – and introducing a millennial mentorship programme could help you do this. Diane Herbert, the former HR Director of Channel 4 and Director of consultancy Mindshift, says: “The thing I like about reverse mentoring is that it sends a really clear message that learning and developing is a life-long process and not related to one’s age or the amount of years’ experience a person has.” It signals, Herbert adds, that a company values ideas and perspectives, regardless of where they come from.
4. And boost your diversity and inclusion programmes
The last benefit of reverse mentoring is the boost they will provide to your existing diversity and inclusion programmes. For example, PwC launched its reverse mentoring programme in 2014 as part of its diversity and inclusion drive.
The programme is open to female and BAME staff who are higher apprentices, associates, senior associates or managers. They currently have 122 millennials mentoring 200 partners and directors. The mentors meet with their mentees once a month, while mentors meet quarterly to discuss any issues.
Kalee Talvitie-Brown, Head of People at PwC Consulting, says one of the best things about the reverse mentoring scheme is that it’s given the partners a better insight into the different challenges faced by young women and BAME employees in the workplace, such as settling back into work after maternity leave.
“The partners gained insights into the challenges of returning from parental leave and we have since set up Parental Pals, a buddy group in the business, to give better support to parent returners,” she notes.
Krystal Allen is a millennial mentor and Manager at PwC. She says: “What I have enjoyed most is the ability to share my experience as a woman within the firm to challenge the partners’ views and ways of working, in a safe environment.”
I hope you found the above summary interesting, or that it at least provided you with some food for thought. From my perspective, I’m always striving to learn from my colleagues, especially the younger members of our workforce - they are an invaluable source of both inspiration and innovation, who should not be ignored. It is this generation that will make up the leaders of tomorrow and it is important to learn from their experiences, as they will no doubt differ from our own and how businesses have traditionally run.
I’d be really interested to hear from you on this topic – has your business implemented a similar programme? What impact has it had? What challenges have you faced? Please feel free to leave your comments below.
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