I recently heard the term “Reverse Mentoring” and it caught my attention. We all know what the usual “mentoring” means—an older, wiser, and more mature person “mentors” a younger person. Mentoring can happen in the workplace as well as outside. So what is reversed mentoring? As the word reverse implies, it’s the other way around (my own definition). In this case, a young person mentors an older person. But why do we need reverse mentoring in the workplace? Let me answer that with another question. What does the younger generation know better than the older generations? Technology!!!
When I coach older employees and my Baby Boomer friends in regards to the workplace, I always advise two key things in order for them to be and stay successful in the current business environment: 1) Learn the new technology and stay current with all the changes; and 2) Keep a good attitude as you learn and continue to learn.
Learning new things takes time and effort but in order for the older generation to succeed and have an impact in their later years of work, they need to learn the new technologies to perform their jobs. The problem is, technology changes continually. Therefore, older workers must continue the learning journey. For the younger workers, learning new technology is easy. They were given their first cell phone almost as soon as they could hold a bottle! For them, a new software or new gadget is fun. It’s a new adventure, something to conquer and use immediately in their jobs. This situation creates a huge advantage to younger workers over the older generations.
But it’s not the end of the world for the older workers. It’s not that they’re less smart. They simply have not grown up using all the different technologies. The solution is simply to have a good attitude and open mind to learn the new technology—over and over again. The more your brain gets used to the “exercise of learning,” the easier it is to continue to learn. Did you know the way to exercise the brain is to learn? Just as our bodies need the physical exercise to stay fit, our brains need to continue to learn so they can expand and stay fruitful and productive during our later years.
So, if you are in the “older generation” group, I encourage you to seek a young mentor to teach you the technology your company uses. For starters, believe it or not, one of the keys to being effective and efficient at work is knowing how to type. Many older workers don’t know how to type. Right there, you have a significant disadvantage at work. Most business people these days communicate via email and typing a long note that is important for you to keep in your files or records can take up a long time if you’re not fast and don’t know your keyboard. It’s never too late to learn to type.
It’s never too late either to learn Microsoft Office products and know them well. MS PowerPoint is widely used to create presentations and very few people know how to use it. MS Outlook has many options that few know and take advantage of. Creating a Table of Contents in MS Word is unheard of for most older workers to have this knowledge. Knowing MS Excel is a must for workers in the financial arena. You don’t have to be an expert, just be knowledgeable enough to create spreadsheets fast and know how to use others’ spreadsheets. If you work at a bank, having a basic knowledge of your core system is a must so you can get around and find information easily and quickly—by yourself. These are some of the examples of software packages and systems that you could start learning or increasing your knowledge on so you feel more comfortable and competent in the area of technology. Of course, in addition to the basics, you’ll need to keep up with the aps, your cell phone capabilities, and how to use the Internet and social media.
Older workers will need to humbly ask for help from the younger workers but it will pay off. The young mentor will feel valuable and appreciated. The older mentee will feel smarter and more valuable as well. But on both sides, it will take patience and a good attitude knowing that you are both on the same team. Below is the link to a related article on reverse mentoring by Chris Nichols, Chief Strategy Officer at CenterState Bank that I found to be very informative:
Doing reverse mentoring will also increase the bottom line as older workers can potentially become even more efficient than they are now creating a win-win situation for businesses. Knowing and continuing to learn technology is not for the IT people only. It’s for all of us workers regardless of our age!
At Malzahn Strategic (www.malzahnstrategic.com) we work with banks that want to increase their profitability by improving their operational efficiencies. We focus on Strategic Planning, Enterprise Risk Management and Talent Management.