At Bayer Taiwan, Learning from the Younger Generation
Just what is the Z generation thinking about? What does holding a job mean to them? What types of entertainment do young people prefer? Many high-level corporate executives have been pondering these questions, but still haven’t come up with the answers. Considering the differences between the generations, perhaps it is best to let young people take on the role of instructor in teaching senior “apprentices.”
Bayer Taiwan used the opportunity presented by its summer internship program to carry out an experimental “Reverse Mentor” program. Bayer Taiwan HR head Crystal Chan notes that enterprises often utilize a mentoring system in which executives or senior employees provide guidance to new or junior employees, helping them adapt to the corporate and workplace culture and giving them advice on planning their career development.
From the head of the company to the summer interns, participants in Bayer Taiwan’s “Reverse Mentor” program benefited from exposure to the thinking of a wide range of age groups, enabling them to understand each generation’s values, mode of interaction with other people, and approach to career planning.
Given the experimental nature of the project, two interns were chosen to serve as mentors, with the arrangement that two of the company’s senior executives – the Managing Director and the CFO – would learn from them. Crystal Chan said the project lasted about a month. “The first interaction was a report that the two instructors prepared to enable to two mentees to understand the strengths and concerns of the new generation,” she noted.
That was followed by two individual coaching sessions, and then a final lesson that was an overall sharing. Ryne Chen, who served as the mentor for Bayer Taiwan Managing Director Freda Lin and is still a student at National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of Brain and Mind Sciences, said he doesn’t know why he was selected, but to participate in the project was “really very cool.”
“Although I wanted to provide some guidance to the Managing Director, having the chance to interact with the leaders of a multinational enterprise was really an extremely special opportunity,” Bayer Taiwan MD he said. “At the beginning, I was partly in shock, partly happy, and partly scared. I was uneasy because I didn’t know just what I should try to teach the Managing Director. But my ‘mentee’ was a very serious student and referred to the list of topics for study. She wanted to understand the thinking of young talent about careers and workplace values, so I shared my own experience and observations. I hope it will help the company cultivate more young talent.”
The ability to attract young talent will be an extremely important element in the company’s long-term sustainability, says Freda Lin. For a company with a history of more than 150 years, continuing to learn from young people is the key to innovation.
The experience gained from this experiment has been extremely valuable. As a result of the project, the spirit of “Reverse Mentor” has gradually taken hold internally within Bayer Taiwan. That spirit entails learning from the younger generation, together providing solutions to the challenges facing the world, and creating a better future for the coming generations.