We’re all familiar with mentoring, and many are familiar with reverse-mentoring. But what happens if the latter gets taken further? With GenZ we are already finding out.
Reverse-mentoring is where the new recruit imparts knowledge to the senior people in the company. Think Luke Skywalker sitting down and teaching Yoda. Effective, it is.
Of course that requires confidence on the part of the GenZer, but the generation doesn’t seem short of that. And it requires a bit of humility on behalf of senior management. And that perhaps is more of a stumbling block, but not an insurmountable one.
However, although these reverse-mentoring schemes can reap rich rewards, they’re basically a one-to-one programme that depends on the chemistry between the individuals. So how could you scale that?
The answer is a growing trend, at least in the USA, of generational consultants. Naturally some of these are older consultants seeing a growing opportunity in the market. But others are GenZ owned and run. Now that is an interesting idea.
We’re used to seeing GenZ making an impact in music and business, but it’s very much at the individual level. Or there are people like Philipp Kalweit, the 20-year-old German boss of his own security consulting firm, where every employee is older than him. But there are also an increasing number of companies like JUV Consulting.
They’re all GenZ, in fact the three founders were just 16 when the company was formed. Now, of the 75 consultants, the oldest is 23 years old. Their point was that they found themselves listening to older people telling them what they thought, what they liked, how they lived. So they decided to switch it around, and actually start telling older people about the ways they thought, liked and lived.
They’re savvy. Sandra Salvaterra works on the JUV creative team and she realises they’re not there just to offer up GenZ as victims to big corporations and brands:
‘Not only do we want people to understand us, we want them to understand us so they can empower us, so they aren’t just using us as a marketing ploy or just another target audience.’
Another teenager who started a generational consultancy aimed at understanding GenZ is Connor Blakley, who is now a stalwart of the public speaking circuit among other attributes. He’s worked with big organisations like Johnson&Johnson and Pepsico,
Some of the challenges such people face, apart from the obvious one of not being taken seriously because of their youth, is simply making older business people grasp the generational gaps. Take phones, for example.
Consultant Lindsey Pollak tells the tale of working with a bank where management couldn’t understand why the younger tellers were making such a meal of using the general phone line when fielding enquiries and customers with problems. It hadn’t occurred to management that the young employees had never used a landline before. They’d never answered a phone that wasn’t theirs, and therefore the call was always for them.
One further development shows how GenZ think. The Covid pandemic has obviously been ruinous for many of that cohort, who have had to put off university, or who have had job offers retracted or jobs let go. The GenZ generational consultancy firms have seen a huge increase in enquiries from GenZers keen to leverage what they know at a time when others don’t seem to want to know.
This ties in with research showing that 75% of GenZ say they feel responsible for advancing their own career, a higher figure than for any other generation.
Maybe now is a very good time to hear what GenZ thinks rather than telling them or guessing what they think.
On that subject, we’re excited to announce that we’ve just interviewed Ellenor McIntosh, co-founder of Twipes, the biodegradable wipes, and one of the Forbes 30 Under 30. Watch out for the post and podcast on what a young British entrepreneur has learned in the world of business.
Ellenor McIntosh, co-founder of Twipes, is an award-winning Forbes ‘30 Under 30’