In last week’s newsletter, I spoke briefly about the divergent mix of ages and generations that make up modern workplaces. Long gone are the days when there was a dominant single age group. And this should be seen as an exciting prospect that brings different strengths and views to every work environment. An asset that can make you stand out from the crowd.
But with all this positivity comes challenges. Different generations have varied work styles, expectations, and life goals. And this can cause discontent, resentment, and friction in the workforce. Older generations, which I now find myself part of, have grown up in an environment of hard work, long hours, and living to work. The reality is that younger people are looking for a very different experience from work. Purpose ahead of profit is high on their agenda, coupled with continuous development, and a work-to-live attitude, protecting their mental, physical, and emotional health.
This next statement may be considered controversial. Perhaps the latest generations have got it right, striking a life balance that most only dream of.
Whether you believe this, or not, the fact is that the next generation is either already in the workforce or are your employees of the future. And those businesses that embrace, accept, and empower them will reap the rewards. This was further strengthened when I recently listened to a parent describe interactions and conversations with their daughters, all of whom work in the same successful business. They talked about the acceptance of different working styles, protecting personal time, and supporting mental health. All resulted in increasing the workforce to deliver the same level of trade, describing it as needing 1.5 people to do 1 person’s job. This wasn’t about poor work ethic but recognising that people are no longer happy working long hours without reward.
To understand the workforce better and bridge the generational gap, many organisations are turning toward reverse mentoring, a growing trend where a junior and, most likely, younger employee mentors a more senior individual. Done correctly it is effective in developing talent while improving cross-generational collaboration, and enhancing performance, regardless of the business. There is a huge benefit for business owners to engage with external mentors of all ages and experiences.
With digital transformation becoming increasingly important in business, changes have never been more frequent. While this technological development is good, not everyone embraces it, with older generations struggling the most. Learning from younger, more knowledgeable colleagues can be advantageous on many levels.
The mentee in reverse mentoring is typically someone who operates at a strategic level within an organisation, with a helicopter view of the business’ direction of travel over the next 5-10 years. With their focus firmly on the medium to long-term, the perspective and knowledge from the frontline younger generation can get lost. These interactions can inform better decision-making across the business, as the mentees may be C-suite directors, senior executives, or owners.
There are many ways reverse mentoring can improve your business operations, interactions, and appeal. Here are five to consider:
Improve innovation through creativity and an open-mind
Working with people from different generations challenges your way of thinking about challenges and problems, opening your mind to new, varied, and innovative solutions. The enhanced creativity and acceptance of different views will empower people to become comfortable sharing their ideas.
Staff turnover is a challenge in every industry, with the marketplace becoming more competitive. The pandemic resulted in people taking stock of their priorities in life and reassessing what they looked for in a work environment. The ethics a business displays are becoming a decision in where younger employees choose to work. One reason for negative perceptions is the feeling that their leaders don't consider the priorities of the workforce, and reverse mentoring demonstrates a willingness to listen, particularly about employee wellbeing. This consideration persuades many to remain in their roles to leverage an opportunity to develop their skills.
Empowering emerging leaders
Young people are the leaders of tomorrow, and to reach their full potential adequate training and guidance must be afforded to them. Reverse mentoring is a great way to help develop communication skills and boost the self-confidence needed to transition into leadership roles while experiencing and embracing the qualities of a good leader.
Supporting diversity, equality, and inclusion
Diversity and inclusion continue to be an issue in many corporate environments, and, quite rightly, companies are called upon to embrace inclusive leadership. Reverse mentorship facilitates all-important opportunities for underrepresented employees to share critical new perspectives with leaders and develop their careers.
Closing the generation gap
Circling back to where we started, reverse mentoring enables younger generations to share their thoughts while learning from more experienced colleagues. Creating an environment of better understanding and collaboration in the process.
My final observation is that all businesses can benefit from thinking differently and it is the younger generations that provide a different, and often, more exciting view of the world.
So what youthful inspiration are you seeking this week?
Have a brilliant week!
David Rogers, Chief Business Narrator, Fuelled Fit and Fired Up Ltd