By Frank Russell
If you were a child of the ’60s, you probably recognize the beginning words of this Bob Dylan song that became a battle cry for generational change. Indeed, the quote, “Don’t trust anyone over 30!” was also coined during this turbulent era. I believe we are on the cusp of another generational transformation that could be even more profound. Today, the largest age group in America is 22 years old, which means the youngest workers are just beginning to enter the workforce. Many organizations are ill-equipped to manage Millennials, and older workers are delaying retirement while struggling to transfer knowledge to this younger workforce. These demographic changes mean new approaches are needed for mentoring and talent development systems.
Research has shown that effective mentoring programs can yield significant ROI for organizations. However, traditional programs have encountered serious roadblocks for the following reasons:
>> They are challenging to set up and administer.
>> It’s difficult to manually match up the best mentors with mentees.
>> It’s time consuming and inconvenient for busy participants to meet.
>> And often, because of costs, they only reach the top level of employees.
Fortunately, technologies such as mobile apps, social collaboration and virtual mentoring tools are changing the way organizations provide this necessary capability.
These new technologies:
>> Make coaching programs easier to implement and manage;
>> Provide auto match-up features to link the best mentors with mentees;
>> Use a variety of synchronous and asynchronous communication features for convenience and global reach; and
>> Significantly reduce costs, enabling more employees to participate and benefit.
As a bonus, these technologies can also help bridge the communication gap between the generations.
The traditional coaching model, which usually pairs an experienced senior executive with a junior employee, is typically one way, top-down. However, as coaching consultants, we’ve observed that mentors can actually learn a great deal from their mentees as well. This “reverse mentoring” process allows senior coaches to gain valuable insights from new employees who have grown up with social media and mobile apps.
The most significant productivity gains, however, come from systems that are set up for “democratized mentoring,” where anyone who has knowledge or expertise in an organization can contribute, collaborate and share with others.
Studies are now showing that these new social approaches can provide a number of additional benefits to organizations, including:
>> Increasing an employee’s speed to competence;
>> Finding and enabling hidden talent;
>> Providing a global platform for employees to collaborate; and
>> Improving employee retention and engagement.
While not a panacea for all mentoring challenges, social collaboration, combined with virtual coaching tools, certainly can reduce many of the problems that once existed for traditional mentoring programs.
Most importantly, these new tools and approaches can break down some of the bureaucratic barriers that continue to support glass ceilings and perpetuate exclusions for many groups. It can bridge the generation gap, as Millennials and Boomers help to develop each other, and embrace the title of Dylan’s song, “For the Times They Are a’ Changin’”!
—Frank Russell is the CEO of Prositions, Inc., a company that provides consulting and technology-based mentoring solutions for organizations. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website www.prositions.com.