Does your company employ a multigenerational workforce? If so, your organization might significantly benefit by adopting a reciprocal mentoring program that leverages talents, skills and knowledge to bridge generational gaps surrounding technology — such as social media — corporate culture and team building.
Given the generational divide, older and younger workers often feel disconnected when it comes to adapting to technology, corporate culture and working as a team.
With reciprocal mentoring, workers across all generations individually and collectively play a pivotal role in creating multigenerational buy-in to the workplace changes that accompany the adoption of technological tools such as social media, cloud computing and text usage that will streamline workflow communication, processes and practices.
Reciprocal mentoring takes the traditional mentoring concept of a seasoned employee guiding a worker’s development and transfers it from a one-way relationship to a two-way or team-building relationship in which newer or younger employees also impart their knowledge and guidance.
It can be especially important when it comes to the integration of newer technologies into the pre-existing corporate culture and workflow processes. To create a dynamic program, it’s important to understand the intrinsic generational differences within your workforce.
Consider your longtime employees. When someone has been on the job for an extended length of time, they form ideas and habits that have been repeatedly reinforced by experience and success.
When they are introduced to a new tool, piece of information or technology, some might feel threatened because it changes what they know and how they have become used to doing things, and the immediate challenge will be to figure out how they might adapt this new knowledge into their existing work practices.
As you add younger workers, it’s important to understand that the Y2K generation, or millennials, have a much different set of motivators from many baby boomer, generation X and generation Y employees.
Millennials thrive in situations that allow them to take ownership of their skills, knowledge and work. Challenge and change are key motivators for most millennials.
A successful reciprocal mentoring program will allow your millennial workers the opportunity to impart their technical savvy, to teach seasoned employees how to leverage and navigate the world of social media and the time-saving and efficiency tools available by leveraging mobile, messaging, text and cloud computing technologies.
In my company, we have taken more of a team-building approach to our reciprocal mentoring. We have set up a schedule of twice-monthly lunch-and-learn events. For these lunch-and-learns, we have put together a calendar of topics that my staff and I feel are of interest and importance to our business. We have tapped every employee, from entry-level to executive, with a topic or series of topics that each will present during one of the events. To keep things organized and to provide structure, we have set up the following outline for each presentation:
■ Who is presenting? Give us some of your personal, professional and/or academic background.
■ What is the topic you are covering?
■ Why is it important to our organization?
■ How can it or does it help move our organization forward?
■ How and/or when do we put it into practice?
■ What are some examples, case studies or best practices surrounding the topic?
During the presentation, we ask the presenter to use presentation tools to provide a show and tell of the topic he or she is covering.
By providing employees a forum to share their skill sets and knowledge, we create an environment where individuals feel they are making a valuable contribution to the entire team. By presenting in a team-like atmosphere, we are fostering individual presentation skills and creating an environment of team support, knowledge-sharing and problem-solving.
Adrienne Lenhoff is president and CEO of Buzzphoria Social Media Marketing and Online Reputation Management, BuzzPhoria Public Relations and Marketing Communications, and Promo Marketing Team, which conducts product sampling, mobile tours and events. Her companies have been seven times named a 101 Metropolitan Detroit Best and Brightest Company to Work for, a two-time Crain’s Detroit Cool Company to Work For and a National Best and Brightest Company to Work For. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @alenhoff.