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Sometimes Younger Employees Can Teach Old Dogs,New Tricks

Perhaps it is time to learn from the younger generation.

A new study indicates there are positive results for having younger employees explain, teach about new technologies in a corporate environment.

A new published report from the Sloan Center on Aging & Work in collaboration with the Center for Work & Family, both at Boston College, on The Hartford’s reverse mentoring program revealed a new strategy in corporate success models. The study concluded that engaging millennial mentors to teach and expand social media understanding and usage to corporate leadership mentees resulted in positive career development opportunities and innovative business growth benefits.

Reverse Mentoring at the Hartford: Cross-Generational Transfer of Knowledge about Social Media cites The Hartford’s Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Liam E. McGee stating that he observed a need for the company “to become more fluent in social media, mobile computing, the cloud, and other digital technologies our customers and partners are using.” He had previously heard of reverse mentoring at General Electric, and thought this innovative strategy could bring his company up to speed.

The impetus from The Hartford’s leadership included three business goals:

  • to reach new customers as insurance shopping habits were changing,
  • to understand the new workplace needs of its workforce, and
  • to improve the bottom line.

The reverse mentoring program began with a group of technologically-savvy employees who were at early stages in their professional careers sharing their knowledge of social media with The Hartford’s senior managers. Company leadership began learning the value of a multigenerational workforce for sustaining its rank in the industry and its standing as an employer of choice. In addition, the group was pleased with senior managers’ positive response to their suggestions and viewed it as a welcome opportunity to get to know and work closely with the company’s leaders.

Metrics support the program’s positive impact on the company:

  • More than 50 mentees across seven states participated. Of 12 mentees who participated in the first wave, 80 percent rated the project “extremely effective/effective” for the business, and 97 percent rated it “extremely effective/effective” for personal development.
  • Of the 12 mentors in the project’s first wave, 11 were promoted within a year of the program’s inception.

Corporate changes included new telemarketing via social media and mobile phones instead of telephones thus saving the company time and money; an update to The Hartford’s Electronic Usage Policy allowing social media usage at work, and a rising comfort with the company internal electronic communications network information sharing capabilities.

The report concludes that reverse mentoring is an adaptable corporate strategy and provides corporate leaders with a valuable generational perspective on topics not typically addressed within traditional organizational hierarchy. The opportunities for learning and open discussion provided by reverse mentioning are fluid and countless, and the new relationships formed by mentors and mentees can be inspiring and genuine. Lastly, the report states, “Perhaps the most important gift of reverse mentoring is the affirmation in all sectors of a company and across generations that the next big idea can come from anywhere.”


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