The practice of hiring younger personnel for older workmates to learn from is referred to as “reverse mentoring.” While that notion may not sound like a great idea to everyone, reverse mentoring can have incredibly positive results. Even if your target market doesn’t include those under 25, young adult mentors are worth considering. Here’s why…
1. They are connected.
Practically hardwired to their smartphones, the youngins are continuously updated on what’s going on around the world in any field of their interest. If you tell them what you’re interested in, they’ll teach you how to stay up to date too. Ideas: competitive research, hot products, the best social media channels for your customers.
2. They understand generational differences in social morays.
If you segment your primary target market by age, gender, and location (and you should), a youngin can help you understand the differences between these groups, how their language differs, which buying factors are most important to each segment, and how best to get them engaged. Ideas: copyrighting, promotional events, pricing.
3. They learn by doing and problem solving.
If you play any online games, you’ll notice that instructions are few and far between. Youngins are indoctrinated to problem solve by making mistakes and figuring things out as they go. It may be time to ditch the strategic plan and make a few small changes just to see what happens. This kind of thinking can get you out of a corporate rut and spark new motivation in your entire team. Ideas: flash sales, online coupons, new business lines.
4. They have a different perspective on team work and collaboration.
They may not remember the TV how Who Wants to be a Millionaire but youngins never hesitate to “phone a friend” when they need help. They can help you shake things up in marketing, business development, R&D and more, by exploring the possibilities of joining forces with other businesses (even competitors) or a host of independent project professionals. Ideas: cooperative advertising, crowdsourcing, crowdfunding.
5. They don’t know how to use the VCR and that’s a good thing.
They used to, and we’ve all relied on youngins to make technology work for us, but VCRs are old tech now, and they have options you may not even know about to what any show, anytime, anywhere. Similarly, they will know about existing solutions to some of your business issues too. Ideas: internal communications, virtual meetings, collaboration tools.
A few tips to get you started:
- Match mentors and mentees with personality as the most important criterion. It’s not always easy for a long tenured specialist to take advice from a short stack who looks 12 years old. Set up a trial period to see how the two get along.
- Ensure that mentors are clear on what is and is not appropriate, respectful, acceptable behavior; and that mentees are serious about learning.
- Consider bi-directional opportunities. If the two can teach each other, all the better.
- Provide a neutral third party to facilitate the mentoring process by being available to offer support, or mediation if needed.
With university students already summer job hunting and secondary school break coming up, this is a great time to give reverse mentoring a try. You can register and post a job for free at this UFV site https://ufv-csm.symplicity.com/employers/ or at the Government of Canada’s Job Bank http://www.jobbank.gc.ca/content_pieces-eng.do?cid=7383.