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Five Reasons You Should Reverse Mentor with Your Millennial Employee

08. 11. 2019

A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Wonderfully so, there are many opportunities for young professionals to be mentored by seasoned management.

On the flip side, what if management took the time to learn from their millennial employees?

Here are five reasons why you should try reverse mentoring with your Gen Y employees.

1. You’ll get their insight on emerging technology

For the most part, millennials don’t know a world without technology, and if someone is immersed in something every day, they likely know a thing or two about adapting as trends change.

What's cryptocurrency and how does it work? How do you optimize your website to be better understood by Google’s search engine? Why should you invest in both paid and organic digital advertising? Millennials have grown up immersed in technology, oftentimes learning new methods without realizing their value.

For example, back in the day MySpace profile building was essentially Website Coding 101 disguised as an after-school hobby.

Please ask us questions, or even task us with keeping up with industry and tech blogs. Use us to your advantage to work smarter, not harder.

2. You’ll succeed by getting to know them better

Consider these facts about the human brain: The New York Times reported that The National Institutes of Health spends $4.5 billion a year on brain research and they are unable to explain how information is encoded and transferred throughout our brain. Scientist Sebastian Seung speculates that each individual has a unique brain makeup based on the connections between each neuron. The point? We’re complicated. The chance that we’re going to process and understand new material in the same way as our colleagues is virtually impossible.

So, get to know us. Knowing about our backgrounds and even hobbies will give insight into who we are and what drives us. Chances are, spending some one-on-one time with your millennial employee will show you the ways in which we absorb information and how you can help us to be better employees and professionals.

Assure us that we were hired for our strengths and will be trained for our shortcomings. The more comfortable we are to ask questions without feeling embarrassed, the better our work will be.

3. You'll learn how to improve your company's culture

Corporate culture is becoming increasingly more important to both candidates and companies. According to Forbes, having a good company culture contributes to your brand identity, affects employee retention and is a part of your brand’s image.

Whether you’re the powerhouse digital agency in Toronto that everyone wants to be a part of, with legacy employees, or you’re a new start-up digital agency, any new talent you hire will quickly absorb your company’s culture, befriend their co-workers and likely hear about their grievances.

Leveraging young employee’s insights to improve your culture can create a comfortable and productive environment for everyone and may even lead to changes that the company had never considered before.

4. Understand that career timelines have changed—and that this can be a good thing

Nothing is more frustrating for millennials and their employers than hearing that millennials are “lazy” for not searching for employment directly after completing their education. Simply put, priorities have changed, a lot, over the last few decades.

According to StatsCan, Canadians are starting families later in life: in 1993, 20 percent of first-pregnancy mothers were between 30-39 years old, while in 2013, this percentage increased to 30 per cent. The Atlantic reported that the 16-34 year old age range accounts for 200 million travelers per year, which is a 30% increase since 2007. These statistics imply that millennials put more of an emphasis on individual growth and experience than their preceding generations.

While this can sometimes mean that some of us are starting our formal careers later in life, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have valuable experience to bring to the table. Maybe your millennial employee spent a year living somewhere in Asia where they learned to stick to a small budget and barter prices with vendors. Pull them into client negotiation or budget-planning meetings. Have an employee who spent six months learning to speak a foreign language? Use them as an asset for your international projects or clients. Your millennial employees will often have fresh ideas or will be able to lend a hand using their real-world experiences.

5. They’ll give you a fresh perspective

It’s easy to get stuck within processes simply because they’ve become habitual. Maybe you have 8 a.m. meetings every Thursday, simply because you’ve always had a meeting at 8 a.m. on Thursday morning. Or, you send mass emails about policies that could otherwise be addressed in a company-wide wiki.

It's easy to get into a groove about how we do things and neglect developing and implementing more effective ways to get our tasks done. Ask or listen to your millennial employees and their ideas. Maybe they have an excel template embedded with formulas that would make a tedious task more effective for the entire team, or an alternate way to communicate information without having that 8 a.m. meeting. Having fresh eyes assess your current processes may improve how you do things.

Reverse mentoring is a great way to get to know your millennial employees better, improving your working relationship, your company culture and overall workflow.

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