Every organization is essentially a learning organization. I don’t care what industry you’re in. Maybe you’re in software, retail, manufacturing or finance. Organizations live or die based on how quickly they can pivot with market changes by adopting new:
- efficiencies, and
The problem: how do you retool, retrain, develop, align and motivate your people to embrace change and charge forward? Here’s a hint: the old way doesn’t work anymore. 60 – 80% of your workforce are millennials and Gen Z who learn differently than Gen X.
You need to retool your organization by adopting a peer mentoring program. As a Gen X-er myself, I’ve worked in and led organizations for 25 years. I’ve seen trends come and go. This time, it’s different.
In the late 90s, we thought the world was moving fast. The dot-com boom was revving up. Companies like Netscape and Microsoft threatened the entire internet. Pets.com was worth more than General Electric.
Do you remember the year 2000? We thought the coding of computerized systems would collapse all computers and networks around the world. All the rules had changed.
Fundamentally, we still learned and drove organizational change the same way:
- The CEO had a vision and made some speeches and talks.
- The executive team came up with a new direction.
- HR, for example, created a fancy campaign about developing new talent.
- They trained every level of the organization in this new way. Each of those levels taught the people who worked for them, and so on in this way.
Change and learning cascaded from the executive suite through the directors, to the first line manager, and finally to the frontline workers or sales reps. It may not have been efficient and fast, but it was normal and worked.
Here’s the problem: millennials and Gen Z don’t work, relate or learn that way. They have different needs, expectations, motivations, and certainly priorities.
It does no good to hammer the old square peg in a round hole. You need a new peg and a new hole. Throw all your old pegs away. Millennials and Gen Z are different.
Imagine you are Fox or NBC. You’re negotiating billion-dollar contracts with the NBA to televise games. You profit from those contracts by selling advertising, right? The most valuable demographic are people ages 18 to 34.
The problem is that this generation doesn’t actually watch the game. Realistically, only 50% watch highlights.
The reason they can’t sit through the entire game is because they have too many other distractions. They’d rather be on social media or other social platforms like multiplayer video.
So, how can you get their attention? What do you?
You engage them with their peers. Here are five reasons why peer mentoring programs are better suited for millennials and Gen Z to learn new skills.
#1: They like to snack, not feast.
Millennials and Gen Z don’t like to waste time. They don’t want encyclopedias, workshops or seminars. They don’t even want to watch a whole football game or a movie at once.
They want to learn when and where they need to. In other words, it’s not about spending a couple of days of preparing for a big feast. They want you to give them information in little bites that meet their needs in the moment.
#2: They want engaging, stimulating and self-directed learning.
“Here we are. Now, entertain us.” Do you remember when Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain sang this lyric in “Smells Like Teen Spirit?” I think he was actually singing about Gen X.
But it fits perfectly with millennials and Gen Z. As I said, Gen Z doesn’t want long boring lectures. They want their learning to be engaging, stimulating, and mostly self-directed.
That’s why digital and social media works so well with them. They prefer their learning to be completed in their own time, on their own terms. They like quick access to videos and engaging with peers on Slack or Zoom. They want dialogue, not lectures.
#3: They have no respect for “experts.”
Who cares if you’re the so-called “expert?” Millennials and Gen Z have no respect for experts. They don’t trust degrees, credentials, or even experience.
They only trust you if you know what they need to know, and you prove it by delivering the goods.
For example, think about social media influencers. These people may seem ridiculous to Gen X because they have little credibility outside of their own fame. However, millennials and Gen Z like, believe, and listen to them.
#4: Data does it.
Millennials and Gen Z aren’t into conceptual frameworks or sweeping theories. They don’t trust your models or trends. They trust data.
Show them the numbers to prove the value. Better yet, get their friends to do it. They trust what their friends have to say. Everything else is just irrelevant.
#5: Learn, share, repeat.
Millennials and Gen Z don’t just like sharing information with peers; this is how they learn. They’re used to asking each other for help and they learn best by sharing.
Learning by sharing is the definition of peer mentoring.
The hard part is that you need to rethink and reshape what you perceive about peer mentoring. How can you distribute new information, training and ideas throughout your organization?
The good news is that you don’t need lots of resources and structure to implement it. The best way to drive change and improve learning is to enlist your workforce to do what they’ve always done:
Communicate and engage with each other on social media and through video.
When you can, of course implement face-to-face interactions. All of this works together to build a culture of engagement and loyalty. Think about how the rules have changed:
- The Old Rule: People don’t leave organizations. They leave managers.
- The New Rule: People don’t stay in organizations. They stay with their friends.
For more information about peer mentoring, please visit www.ChristosTsolkas.com. You can apply to book a consultation with me and discover other talent resources.
Or, you can also purchase your copy of The Gift of Crisis: How Leaders Use Purpose to Renew their Lives, Change their Organizations, and Save the World.
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