In Reverse Mentoring, Executives Learn From Millennials

Young employees offer a fresh perspective on technology, social media and consumer culture.

Smiling senior with junior executive

Kulesza compares this candor to telling the emperor he's not wearing any clothes. "It's important to do that in a safe environment," he says. "It doesn't have to be public." In his case, though, he points out that since he doesn't manage Singleton or even work at the same company, a miscommunication likely wouldn't jeopardize her career.

On the other side, reluctance to adopt new technology or learn from millennials can be a stumbling block for some experienced workers accustomed to traditional ways of doing business. Satter says this can be to their detriment: "To think that the world is gonna go back to analogue is a mistake."

According to Satter, when confronted by change, humans take a predictable path: First attack it, then ridicule it and ultimately embrace it. "I think you'll find certain pockets of business and commerce where people are more embracing as opposed to less embracing," he says. "I'd rather be part of the change than get run over by it. Organizations that can do that will be much more vibrant and robust than where you have the boomers hanging on by their fingernails."

Still, intergenerational discussions can be challenging at times. "It may make us feel uncomfortable, and we don't always understand where a millennial is coming from, but [that's] all the more reason to have a dialogue," Kulesza says.

Corrected on 04/16/13: A previous version of this story misstated the type of class Bud Kulesza enjoys attending. It is a continuing professional education class.