Tech, texting and social media: Gen Y are the experts

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Tweet, poke, like, pin – you’d find all these words in Webster’s 10 years ago, but they wouldn’t mean what they do today. Your managers and senior staff have decades of experience in managing people, finance, risk, products and crises, but they’re not likely to be the experts on social media and modern communication. For that you might look to the 19-year-old intern wearing headphones. They’ve probably communicated with at least two dozen people in a half dozen ways by the time they get to work.

A new management trend sweeping Canada is ‘reverse mentoring’, where older executives are mentored by younger employees on areas such as social media, technology and contemporary trends. Reverse-mentoring is seen as a method for bringing older employees up to speed in topics that are often second nature to Gen Y employees. It’s a trend which is becoming increasingly popular, as older workers realize there’s a lot to be learned  from the up-and-comers.

"I'd prefer to learn in days from someone else what I could learn on my own over decades," writes Chick-Fil-A executive Mark Miller, who has embraced reverse mentoring. "I'm leveraging someone else's talents and gifts. Allowing them to share their expertise and share their passion seems like a good idea to me."

The things Miller hopes to learn range from specific advice on technology such putting music on his iPod and helping change computer settings, through to general feedback on his social media use, what products he’s missing out on and what resources he should be using.

“I need someone to challenge the way my brain works,” Miller says. “I’m a product of my generation. I’m far too linear – social media is not.”

The advantages aren’t just for the older mentee, according to Lois Zachary, president of Leadership Development Services LLC. "It also helps younger people get comfortable in a company. It promotes loyalty, it generates trust,” she said.


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