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Mentoring & Reverse Mentoring are Critical Success Factors

Updated: Feb 18, 2021

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects, “between 2014 and 2024, 36.4 million workers will enter the labor force, and 28.6 million will leave”.  Its statistics reveal that the makeup of the workforce is changing; it is getting older.  Considering the changes coming and the effects they will have on team power, leaders need to re-evaluate their current workgroup makeup.  If the team mix doesn’t represent members from all stages of life and different skillsets, change it.  Start thinking about pairing emerging leaders with retiring leaders so that there is at least one leader in the bullpen.  Encourage retirees to mentor incoming leaders.  Leaders must begin looking at upcoming retirements and promotions and purposefully create transition plans.  There are so many Boomers who will retire; it is crucial to help prevent the loss of institutional knowledge and wisdom.

The Millennial and Gen Z generations are waiting for the opportunity to prove their abilities. They have the perfect mix of team skills. Team power is a vital component of navigating our VUCA world successfully. No matter what we do or who we are, we work, learn, play, and live in teams. We experience life together, whether as a family, group of friends, co-workers, or leadership team.

Mentoring programs can assist with bridging differences in viewpoints. There is a need to instill the value of meritocracy in the workforce. There is also a need for positive support systems from managers to subordinates. Mentoring programs can deliver both. These needs stem from the reality that many Millennial employees were raised by parents, teachers, coaches, and others who made them feel accepted regardless of their performance or the outcome of their work. The sense of entitlement and auto-acceptance in the Millennial generation is pervasive.

Mentors and mentees must be aware of the differences in communication norms and be prepared to adapt. As children, Millennials were encouraged to speak and interact with adults, teachers, and coaches. The effect has been the propensity to interrupt managers and superiors, causing difficulties in relationships, respect, and middle management’s ability to get their work completed. One generation sees interruptions as disrespectful, while the other sees them as their opportunity to provide input. Better expectation setting through mentorship can mitigate difficulties in communication styles.

Those in leadership should be able to lead and manage the diverse workforce and adapt to these inevitable changes.  Current and emerging leaders need to embrace their generational differences to avoid significant talent and performance deficits as this transition takes place.

When it comes to change, it’s a good idea to be an early adopter and not a laggard.  It’s not enough to go with the current flow.  Leaders must be able to identify future needs.  Over the next ten years, in the public and private sectors, leadership training and mentoring programs will be crucial.  Management should consider using mentorship programs, generational diversity training, and enhanced communication methods.  These can reach and accommodate each generation’s preferences fostering productivity that supports the work environment.  Not taking advantage of the wisdom and knowledge of those who will be retiring makes no sense.  Mentoring younger leaders also infuses a purpose and meaning into the latter days of a person’s career and helps re-engage disengaged workers.

Resources: (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015), (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019),(Green & Roberts, 2012),(Kapoor & Solomon, 2011)

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