In Part 1 of “The Millennial Mirror,” we took a look at the seismic changes of the past five years, and how many communications and branding professionals have come to view engaging Millennials as key to mitigating the disruptions that have impacted us all.
Yes, we have all experienced a period of intense change that impacts us individually and also organizationally. But Millennials experienced this along with everyone else. To view them as somehow outside or unaffected by all of this is myopic and arrogant. It perpetuates false generational divisions, intensifies inefficiencies, and wastes the extraordinary opportunities we have been handed.
As an industry, we have the tools and teammates necessary to re-imagine core business practices and better align them with how the world connects and communicates.
The most effective way to do this is to stop treating younger staffers as merely narrow specialists of their age group — and to stop treating Millennials as some sort of isolated, stereotyped add-on. The most efficient way to do this is to radically rethink the brand management model.
Nobody is more qualified to lead that process of revitalizing the brand management model than Millennial staffers. While many pixels have been spilled lauding Millennials as digitally adept, it is what makes them so adroit at digital and mobile technology that matters, and what makes them ideal brand managers.
The Millennial mindset is one that is not afraid to ask questions or give an opinion. Millennials ascribe loyalty not primarily to a brand or an organization, but to the concept and practice of value and service, and the actual, useful impact something has on their lives. Nothing could be more central to effective brand management today — and nothing can push it farther from reach than a mentality that views Millennials as people who need to be co-opted and pressured into adopting outdated models and practices.
This is why I call for a new embrace and prioritization of reciprocal mentorship as not just a best practice, but as a business necessity moving forward.
Reciprocal mentorship, though, does not mean what some might assume. In the past, it meant something like this. “Show us how to tweet and start a brand page and we'll show you how this business actually works.” It was terribly condescending and, not surprisingly, totally ineffective.
Instead, reciprocal mentorship should start at the philosophy of innovating from the outside in, as seen in place at organizations like Procter & Gamble, and then go much further. It will require dramatic easing, even collapse, of some of the internal hierarchies that businesses — and careers — are built upon. And while it is certainly about teaching and learning, it is not about mere apprenticeship, with its focused and clearly denoted power structures.
In Part 3 of “The Millennial Mirror,” we will take a closer look at reciprocal mentorship, exploring how many of the executive managers who are most reluctant to embrace it are in fact already doing it.
Thomas Harrison is chairman of the Diversified Agency Services unit at Omnicom Group.