Why Boomers Need Millennial Mentors (and Millennials Need Boomers)

here's What everyone can stand to gain

October 20, 2015 · Share via Email LinkedIn

Image titleThe traditional dynamic of mentorship is the wise teaching and developing the aptitude of the less experienced party. Yet, what happens when the wisest of the mentorship pair is actually younger

Popularly captured in the movieThe Intern, reverse mentorship is the recent trend of younger staffers teaching those several rungs or even decades ahead on the career ladder. As Millennials grow to be a critical generation in the workplace, Boomers are adjusting to new ways of working and technology shifts. Yet, far more than a one-way value exchange, Millennials are learning from Boomers, too. 

Here's why every Boomer should find a Millennial mentor:

Skill Development

Ranging from leveraging LinkedIn to the latest shortcuts in Excel, Millennials are in a prime position to keep Boomers up-to-date on new tech-focused skills that impact their work. And, in hand, the younger generation can learn from experienced Boomers critical career-accelerating moves such as upwards management, how to ask for a raise or promotion and conflict management. While the younger generation may be more up-to-date on technology trends, Boomers have soft skills cultivated by years of experience to teach their younger counterparts. 

Cultural Aptitude

It's not just the work itself and the tools we use to do it that are changing. Cultural expectations are changing, too. For example, Millennials are more likely to be interested in remote work setups and are accustomed to work and personal life blending together. Meanwhile, Boomers tend to appreciate a clear divide between their work and personal life. Reverse mentorship is an opportunity to understand and empathize with the driving forces behind these trends. 

Careful Listening

Reverse mentoring requires a very special skill: listening! Being in the position of learning something new from a person who may have quite a different background or be less qualified on paper requires adults set in their ways to open up. This requires the letting down of defenses, releasing of preconceived biases and carefully attuned listening for learnings and personal connections to develop. An experience transferable to many work situations, reserve mentoring requires everyone involved to work a bit more to really listen.

Cross-Company Relationship Development

No longer is it true that Boomers are necessarily higher up in company ranks than younger generations. In fact, it's not uncommon to find Millennials managing Boomers. In this context, reverse mentorship is an opportunity for both generations to foster and deepen key relationships that are critical to the success of their work. Plus, friendships in the office are proven to boost employee satisfaction, performance and productivity. And, your mentee and mentor just might end up growing into a friend!

There are so many good and powerful reasons to find a reverse mentor. How are you fostering reverse mentoring at your company?