– Sean Purcell

We often talk about how we can play to our employee’s strengths within the business arena, whether that is in a sales-driven role, a leadership role or a more creative role. The point is everyone has different skillsets that allow them to thrive in certain areas over others. But what do you do when some employees are lacking the skills needed to thrive everyday within their workplace? Sean Purcell discusses how you can make older workers and younger workers more confident by introducing two-way mentoring schemes at work.


Older workers and their digital skills

Some older workers may struggle with a range of digital skills such as using a computer or printing out reports, this was also revealed in  a report by Barclays Digital Development Index which surveyed by 6,000 adults and found that 43% of adults do not have the digital skills required for the workplace such as word processing, database, spreadsheet and social media management, meaning that many employers are having to designate work to other workers or pay out money for training.


Sean Purcell

When employees don’t have the digital skills they need

However, what happens when older workers become resentful of the work that their younger employees can do hassle-free and quickly? Many older workers fear that their position will be given to younger employees and their role within the company will cease to exist. But there’s a way around this. Younger workers might have all the up-to-date skills that older employees covet, but younger workers don’t have the client management experience, the strategic direction, or the project management skills that older workers possess. So, the logical solution to benefit both parties would be to introduce a two-way mentoring scheme.


How do I help my older workers to feel confident at work if they lack digital skills?

The two-way mentoring scheme is a process that has recently been introduced by workplaces to help bridge the skills gap employees may have. It also means that if you’re a medium sized business, you won’t have to spend money for training that might be futile or ineffective. How many times have you been to training programmes where you think, “I already know everything they’ve covered” or “I could’ve taught this training programme better myself?” A two-way mentoring scheme helps to eliminate the risk of paying out for training that yields no results and helps employees to also become better leaders and managers.


How do I adopt and measure the effectiveness of a two-way mentoring scheme?

To adopt a two-way mentoring scheme, it’s important to understand that it differs from peer mentoring in that it isn’t voluntary, and it runs both ways rather than one way. According to research, it also helps increase engagement amongst both parties. So how do we introduce such a scheme?

Firstly, approach employees and find out who wants to take part in it, then divide individual participants by who wants to learn what skill and who already has those skills. Depending on the pace, nature and learning style of your workplace, employees might want schedule the meetings fortnightly or monthly for around one hour, it might the case that the meetings would work better on a Friday afternoon rather than first thing on a Monday morning when people are at their busiest for example. Such a programme can also be supported and enhanced by using internal communication tools such as ‘Slack’ or ‘Microsoft Teams’ enabling participants to communicate regularly and share ideas and seek support early.

Finally, to measure the effectiveness of the two-way mentoring programme, you must have clear objectives at the beginning, so ask your employees to set these for themselves and establish agreed processes for reviewing them. Remember, this scheme is about their progression and finding out what skills they need to learn, not the fulfilment of some distant KPI.


Sean Purcell is a business growth strategist, coach, consultant, and author of ‘MillenniALL: How to claim your future in the Age of the Millennial.’ Find out more at www.sean-purcell.co.uk.


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