In my work with firms across the country, I try to identify commonalities in frustrations and complaints I hear from firm leaders. Without question, one of the most frequent pain points I hear firm leaders share is difficulty working with and understanding younger generations. The bemoaning of millennials and zoomers is so common amongst law firm leaders, in fact, I think it’s time we address the issue head-on and, perhaps, reframe our thinking on the topic.
Now, more than ever before, we are witnessing more generationally diverse workplaces. Gone are the days of single-age group organizations. These more diverse workplaces present both opportunities and challenges. As much as you may loathe the idea of what millennials and zoomers embody, you also probably understand that you can’t sustain your firm in the long term by only continuing to employ team members who belong to older generations.
As the Great Resignation continues, it’s important to note that a generational disconnect can be incredibly detrimental to a business. Too many firm leaders believe their perceptions about an entire generation are true, and they allow those perceptions to impact firm culture. I’ve also witnessed very clear cultural tears and rifts, along with low morale and high employee turnover. Generational disconnect is common in businesses, and if you give it the power to poison your well, it will.
In this two-part blog series, we’ll explore the concept of reverse mentorship, examine why it’s important, and, next week, show you how to implement a reverse mentorship program at your law firm.
Defining reverse mentorship
Reverse mentoring is an intentional approach to better understand team members who are from different generations. The aim here is to allow the junior team member to serve as a mentor to someone more senior than them. The goal is to encourage the junior team member to share their experience, expertise, and perspective openly. This may include topics like social media, technology, trends, current social issues, or general life experiences.
The senior team member will be able to glean, through the relationship and conversations, insight into another generation. That insight can include critical information, like how their age group vets vendors, which could ultimately benefit the organization as a whole. Reverse mentorship can be hugely beneficial and allow an organization to develop talent, hire better, onboard more effectively, and connect people of different backgrounds and ages in a meaningful and powerful way.
The trick here is that you can’t simply expect that reverse mentorship will happen organically. You have to be intentional about it, in the same way you’re intentional about other coaching and mentorship opportunities at your firm (check out our previous blog on this topic – Retention through Connection: Using Mentorship to Strengthen Your Firm). Instituting a reverse mentorship program at your firm is a great way to encourage innovation and collaboration. When you put a program like this in place, you send a very clear message to your team – that their voice matters, their experience is important, and that they have great value to your organization. And the payoff for firm leaders is often HUGE! Reverse mentorship programs not only generate a constant transfer of business knowledge and skills between team members, but they also provide a hotbed of ideas, perspectives, transformation, and evolution.
What are the benefits of reverse mentoring?
When people of different ages and from different backgrounds come together in a meaningful way, the natural knowledge sharing between the two can generate powerful benefits for your organization. Consider these payoffs:
Reverse mentorship relationships can look different and serve a variety of purposes. Consider it a key tool in navigating biases, increasing engagement, and sharing experiential knowledge. Next week, we will share some tips for putting together an effective and powerful reverse mentorship program at your firm.