It’s no secret that young people are usually the first demographic to embrace new technology and media. Older communicators often struggle with changing tools, causing them to hire younger staff members to engage with the tools instead.
Social and mobile media have become critical components of the modern marketing mix. In turn, Generation X and Baby Boomer marketers and PR pros have been forced to embrace new media. Learning these tools can be difficult, but young co-workers—yes, the junior staffer hired to “handle” social media—can help.
Be smart about this. One primary characteristic of the millennial generation is a desire to be included and treated respectfully. Young workers want access to executives, and choose work environments where they can build something with them. Embracing millennials fulfills those needs and can help your older staff adjust at the same time.
In addition, young people miss the value experience brings. Reverse mentoring uses both groups’ strengths and cross pollinates them.
Here are five reverse mentoring techniques that empower young staff members to help older workers learn new media tools:
1. Build technology or media task forces.
We know how important technology and media are to businesses. Build a task force charged with leading the company into the future. Populate it with a healthy mix of young workers, communications team members and appropriate senior executives. Make sure your committee has a clear mission and structure to achieve your business goals.
2. Give millennials progressive roles.
Do more than put millennials on the committee. While it’s a great first step, you may want to assign leadership roles to those who demonstrate initiative.
The titles of group chair, lead social media trainer, corporate ambassador to local tech/social events, etc., are great ways to empower millennials with positions of worth in the company. Make sure you mentor first timers so they can succeed in these roles. Don’t assume they have professionalism and leadership skills.
3. Provide reverse training opportunities.
If your organization has 20 people or more, it’s likely that members from the entire company are struggling with new media. Create training opportunities across the company, and have your younger team lead them. Show young staffers how to coach others and build great presentations. Perhaps even provide speaker training.
4. Offer access to executives.
Executives need to know how technology is changing the way customers interact with brands, and millennials want access to leadership. Fulfill both groups’ needs by allowing task force members to brief the executive team on findings, or invite executives to the committee to ask and answer questions. This doesn’t have to occur every week, but do it periodically so both groups benefit from each other.
5. Assign social and user experience roles.
Another way to embrace younger team members’ familiarity and knowledge with technology is to let them take lead roles in relevant work areas. For example, let millennials manage social communities, provide feedback on the online user experience and make technology suggestions for corporate IT.
Like the other steps, be proactive and mentor younger team members. For example, don’t leave the team out on the social Web without immediate access to more seasoned senior executives who can handle an online crisis or customer service issues.
What reverse mentoring tips would you add?
A version of this article originally appeared on the Vocus blog.