Last July, PepsiCo India launched YCom — a forum of millennials elected by their own members — as a parallel board to the executive committee.
The aim was to ensure that Generation Y has a strong say in decisions that shape the company’s future. Since then, YCom has been working on various areas, including reverse mentoring the executive committee on digital technologies.
Sudipto Mozumdar, vice president of India Franchise Commercial Unit at PepsiCo, attended one such session on online productivity tools. Another six members of the committee — Suchitra Rajendra, VP-HR; Vinod Kaushal, general counsel; Harsh Rai, VP Po1 sales; Mithun Sundar, senior director-strategy; Vipul Prakash, senior VP–beverage category; and Mijanur Rahman, director, R&D, snacks — were also mentored by the YCom on technology tools. The YCom initiative has been so successful that PepsiCo is considering replicating it in other markets, said Rajendra.
In a world where millennials will make up half the global workforce by 2020, companies are finding eminent sense in tapping into their ideas to stay on top of things. Companies such as PepsiCo, GSK Consumer Healthcare India, Jubilant FoodWorks, Microsoft, Vodafone and Mindtree are championing reverse mentoring — getting young employees to mentor senior, and even top leadership — on everything from technology, ways of working, social media and engagement.
GSK Consumer Healthcare India started the reverse mentoring initiative in November 2016 and has put the entire India leadership team through the process.
“In today’s fast-paced, digital world flooded with social networks and new technology, it is essential for organisations to be agile,” said Ongmu Gombu, executive VP, HR. “We have embedded reverse mentoring in our culture and it has a double benefit. With this, senior leaders are able to stay on the pulse of trends while our employees feel more connected and invested because they are contributing to the improvement of their company.”
Microsoft runs a reverse mentoring programme called Elevate that leverages the power of generational diversity among teams. Those who have attended it include Microsoft India president Anant Maheshwari; Anil Bhansali, managing director, Microsoft India (R&D); and Sriram Rajamani, MD, Microsoft Research India.
“We believe that such programmes lead to the evolution of employees, managers and the organisation as a whole,” said Ira Gupta, head of HR at Microsoft India. “Through this platform, mentors who are millennials share their perspectives, thoughts and ideas in one-to-one sessions with mentees who are leaders. The leaders gain from an objective view of groundrealities and fresh perspectives while our mentors get the opportunity to also learn from the experiences of these senior leaders.”
There is nothing unusual about millennials advising CXOs in an age when grandchildren can tutor grandparents on the intricacies of a smartphone, said management expert Debashis Chatterjee, now the director-general of International Management Institute-Delhi.
“The truth is that there are glaring asymmetries in knowhow and technology enabled learning between different generations of managers” he said. “This has deepened the need for reverse mentoring.”
Those who have been through reverse mentoring swear by its benefits. “Younger employees may not have the professional experience, but their understanding of new media and technology is vast, native and adaptive,” said Anurita Chopra, area marketing lead-oral healthcare, GSK Consumer Healthcare.
“For us, the biggest outcome of reverse mentoring is that we have a very engaged workforce across levels. The recent session with younger employees helped me understand what the millennial consumer wants. We will accordingly align our strategy.”
Vodafone India, in its attempt to become a truly digital workplace, has deployed a reverse mentoring programme called Digital Ninja. As part of this, selected millennials reverse mentor the senior leadership, including the executive committee and business heads on various digital tools.
“This has led to two-way knowledge sharing, where the senior leadership gets a first-hand experience of how millennials think. Young mentors too get an opportunity to interact and engage with the senior leadership,” said a Vodafone spokesperson.
A recent report by Morgan Stanley states that India’s millennials accounts for about 28% of the population and by 2020, India will become the world’s youngest country with 64% of its population in the working age group. It’s hardly surprising then that they are becoming increasingly important in the scheme of things.
Jubilant FoodWorks received more than 30,000 ideas last year from millennial employees, who comprise more than 90% of workforce at the company that holds a master franchise for Domino’s Pizza and Dunkin’ Donuts, said Biplob Banerjee, executive VP for HR.
“We have multiple formal and informal forum where two-sided interaction happens. Our CEO has also started the practice of having monthly lunch meetings with millennials at the corporate office,” Banerjee added.
At Mindtree, reverse mentoring works in a slightly different way, as part of the onboarding process for campus recruits. Rishin Chakraborthy, programme director at Mindtree Kalinga, the IT firm’s global learning centre, said when new batches join, senior leaders including CEO Rostow Ravanan and chief operating officer Parthasarathy NS spend time interacting with them in groups.
Over 2,400 engineering and MBA grads have been part of this in the last two years and the process has cascaded down to vertical heads and function heads as well. A significant chunk of Mindtree’s 17,000-strong workforce comprises campus hires, taken on board over the last six-seven years, “For leaders, it is very important to know the expectations of these millennials,” said Chakraborthy.
Source: ET tech