Traditional mentoring, long renowned for its success is developing leaders, is typically a relationship between someone more experienced with someone less experienced. “Mentoring,” says author Gordon Shea, “is a fundamental form of human development where one person invests time, energy and personal know-how in assisting the growth and ability of another person.” There are several different ways that you can incorporate mentoring into your workplace.
Years ago, Jack Welch realized that General Electric was falling behind other companies in its use of the internet as a business tool, so he instituted a “reverse mentoring” program at GE. He required more than 500 of his top executives to find a younger, tech-savvy “Web mentor” to teach them how to use the web and understand e-business.
Organizations from Proctor and Gamble to the Seattle Public Schools have implemented reverse mentoring programs to help them understand technology, business trends, and pop culture. And, Wharton School of Business requires older MBA candidates with long resumes to partner with younger, full-time students.
Reverse mentoring can be used to teach today’s senior leaders how to use social media to connect with customers. It’s also an effective way to give your Millennial employees a window into the higher levels of the organization, so that when the older mentors retire, the younger generation has a better understanding of the business.
The beauty of reverse mentoring comes from the fact that Millennials thrive on relationships. Powerful relationships are created when younger employers are engaged in teaching senior employees. Because Millennials love sharing their ideas and want to know that they are being heard, if you invite them to give you constructive feedback, you can gain a different perspective and help them learn leadership skills. Reverse mentoring can benefit both Millennials and the organizations they work for.
In a group mentoring environment the mentor works with a larger group than the one-on-one relationship used in the reverse mentoring approach. There are several different types of group mentoring. For example, in facilitated group mentoring, the group may hire an outside expert to facilitate discussion on a topic they want to learn more about. Peer group mentoring brings together peers with similar development needs. Participants present a problem or issue and the other members of the group respond to the problem or issue. The collective wisdom of the group is harnessed to solve problems and value is created for all group members. In team group mentoring, the team defines mutual learning goals and works with one or more mentors who facilitate their learning.
We See The World Global Peer Mentoring Project is a collaboration between Communities in Schools of New Jersey Mentoring Success Center and YouthWorks CIC in Belfast, Northern Ireland. High school students meet with youth from across the globe and discuss topics like human rights and education. The program encourages students to share experiences and learn through video conferencing, social media video and other technology. Following the recent political events in Egypt, they connected with teens there to learn from one another.
Millennials want opportunities to interact with and learn from their peers. Group mentoring may offer these workers a familiar, comfortable setting in which they can interact with peers, while at the same time receive guidance and support from a more senior person. And, group mentoring can be built around electronic communications platforms like Skype, webcasts, etc.
Anonymous / On Demand Mentoring
Anonymous/on demand mentoring is generally used to move “high potential” individuals to their next level of achievement. This process is often anonymous – the protégé may not know who the mentor is – and commonly uses outside or third party experts selected by the company. Protégés are matched with trained mentors through psychological testing and background reviews.
There are many benefits of an anonymous mentoring relationship including a higher level of discloser and candid interaction. The anonymity frees up the mentor, who may have learned a lot from his or her mistakes and therefore may be more comfortable sharing his or her war stories anonymously. Another benefit is that it ensures that mentors have an agenda-free interest in the protégé’s professional development. And, the protégé may be more willing to open up and discuss problems and uncertainties they experience when their identity is anonymous.
Time zone, issues of geography and culture differences also tend to be less important in anonymous/on demand mentoring as the communication between mentors and protégés is entirely online. This mentoring option is perfect for Millennials, who are technologically-savvy and want timely information and feedback.
Mentoring is an affordable, creative and smart tool to tap into the talents of your Millennial workers, engage them in your company, ready them for future leadership roles, and meet the challenges of the 2020 workplace.
Judy Lindenberger is President of The Lindenberger Group, an award-winning human resource consulting, coaching and training firm located near Princeton, NJ. She is a two-time recipient of the national Athena Award for Excellence in Mentoring and has consulted with numerous companies to develop successful mentoring programs.