Reversing the roles: Why Gen Ys can make great mentors

Younger workers bring new skill sets to workplace
By Adwoa K. Buahene and Giselle Kovary
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 05/03/2009

Gen Ys are more pundits than protegés. They have grown up in an online world in which it is normal to upload information, distribute knowledge and share opinions. They come into workplaces with the moniker of being “scary smart” and often have more post-secondary education than previous generations. Even if they have not attended school, their skill sets are developed to a level higher than previous generations at the same age.

Learning from a more junior person may be a foreign concept for many leaders and colleagues. Traditionally, mentoring has been viewed as a mechanism by which a more experienced (usually older) employee passes on knowledge and expertise to a less experienced (usually younger) employee. But the roles are reversing and younger employees have become valuable mentors, able to pass on knowledge and expertise.

There are many relevant skills Gen Ys (defined as age nine to 28) bring to the workplace. Not surprisingly, their technical skills as a generation surpass any other generational cohort. Many Gen Ys can teach older generations how to use software or hardware (such as PDAs, Blackberrys or iPhones) more efficiently. As a generation born with a laptop in the house, Gen Ys instinctively know how to maximize or re-program technology and business leaders can, and should, harness this ability.