Reversing the Generation Equation: How Mentoring Will Evolve in the Future Workplace

Jennifer Brown | | , ,

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Lisa Dolly, CEO of Pershing, a BNY Mellon company, and JamiLynn Cimino, Vice President at Pershing, join the program to discuss their reverse mentoring program. Lisa and JamiLynn share lessons and takeaways about the program, which allows Millennial talent to become mentors to executive leaders. They also share their thoughts about how the program helps younger employees learn organizational and leadership skills, and assists executive mentees in learning relevant issues that can inform business strategy for their firm.

To read the white paper about the reverse mentoring program, click here.

In this episode you’ll discover:

  • Lisa’s diversity story of being a woman in the financial services industry (3:57)
  • Why Pershing decided to create a reverse mentoring program (7:50)
  • How reverse mentoring helps with recruitment and retention (11:30)
  • The process for gaining buy-in at the executive level (17:15)
  • Some myths about Millenial employees and the truth about them (23:30)
  • How unconscious bias can lead to missed opportunities for companies (27:10)
  • How the reverse mentoring program has grown beyond Pershing (31:00)
  • An event that has helped Pershing employees get to know their leadership better (32:30)
  • Lessons and takeaways from the reverse mentoring program (36:45)
  • A shift in thinking about generational diversity and shared values (39:20)

Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:

JENNIFER BROWN: Lisa and Jamilynn, welcome to The Will to Change.

JAMILYNN: Thank you, Jennifer, it’s great to be here.

LISA DOLLY: Yes, thank you, Jennifer.

JENNIFER BROWN: I’m thrilled to have both of you here to shed some light on a successful program targeting reverse mentoring in the workplace. It’s an inspiring story, it’s a great case study, and I think it’s addressing some critical challenges that many companies are having right now in terms of generational diversity, and particularly in the banking and financial services world, but I know it’s much broader than that. I’m excited to have Lisa, your executive perspective on what it was like to participate in this program. And then Jamilynn, you and I originally connected because you were a millennial mentor and also the architect of the program with Lisa and other executives and other millennial leaders.

This is going to be very illuminating for our audience, and I think will challenge some assumptions we have about who mentors whom, and flip that model on its head a bit, and I think in a very healthy way because we do need to acknowledge that millennials will be—or are—the majority in the workplace now, or very soon to be. There’s a lot of really interesting research on that flip that’s happening.

What better way to make our younger workers feel at home and feel like they belong and they want to stay with their employer than putting them in the driver’s seat in programs like this? It’s very intriguing. You have great successes to share, and I hope that our Will to Change listeners take some of this on board and potentially launch a program of their own with your guidance.

Let me back up and get personal for a moment, because we always start The Will to Change with our diversity stories. Like we all know, everyone has a diversity story, and sometimes we might think we know it about someone, but it may be something that’s relating to something that they don’t share very often.

I want to give you both an opportunity to share what those stories are. Let’s start with you, Lisa. What is your diversity story?

LISA DOLLY: Okay, so thank you, Jennifer. My story is very personal. I began, because it’s about me, I began in financial services in the early 1980s at this very same company. When I entered the workforce, I was lucky enough to become part of a management training program. There were 12 of us in the program—11 white males and me.

I very early learned both the benefits and the pitfalls of being a woman and being the only woman. Some 30 years later, I’m the CEO of the company, and I quickly learned the benefits of being the only woman as well as the pitfalls of being the woman. My story about diversity is very personal to me.

JENNIFER BROWN: Lisa, you’re a trailblazer. Thank you for hanging in there, and not just being willing to be the only one in the room, and it sounds like that has continued into the C suite, where we don’t see gender parity, far from it. I know that those challenges continue, but at the very least, I know that you are probably better skilled than you’ve ever been to deal with it and also to be an advocate and the role-modeling you’re doing for so many can’t be understated. Thanks for doing what you do and being a shining light for a lot of people who need to “see it to be it” someday.

Jamilynn, what is your diversity story that you’d like to share before we get into a discussion about your program?

JAMILYNN: Yes. So on a very personal note, I am the oldest girl on my mom’s side of the family. And for 17 years, there were nine boys younger than me. I led the charge until my cousin was born. I’ve been leading the way with males in my family for a long time.

But professionally, a couple of years ago, a senior executive within our business joined me for a client meeting with a large international broker-dealer here at Pershing. And we walked into the office of the senior managing director at the firm. I was in that room with five other white males and one other African-American male, and there was a large bear head on the wall in that office. There I was in this setting and I said, “Well, I must take charge and go for it.”

After we left that meeting, that senior executive became an informal mentor of mine and shared that story for many months to come after that because it stood out to him, and I realized being a female can help you even when you don’t realize it.

JENNIFER BROWN: I think you drew strength from that bear head. (Laughter.)

JAMILYNN: Exactly.

JENNIFER BROWN: That is such a great visual. Thank you both for sharing where you were awakened to being the “only” in the room, as we sometimes call it, “the only and lonely,” but I think in your cases, both of you, you found it really empowering and almost a challenge to step into and get comfortable. That is so critical for us. So much of this has to do with us and how we show up and how we own our power, how we use our voice in the room, and to not give into the potentially negative thoughts about the fact that we are the “only” in the room.

We need the system to change, but I think the way that both of you show up and have shown up has really, I think, shifted your career trajectories and gotten you to where you’ve gotten.

Let’s get into the program a bit. Let’s have an overview of the reverse mentoring that you both have been very active in building over the last couple of years at The Bank of New York Mellon and Pershing.

Jamie-Lynn, I want to start with you. Give us an overview of why the program was set up and, in particular, since we have a CEO on in the place of Lisa and her voice as an executive that was involved from the beginning, tell us, how was the program set up? How as Lisa involved? And why was it so important to have leaders from the C-suite like Lisa involved? What did that actually accomplish in terms of positioning you for success?

Absolutely. Just to bring a little bit of context, I am one of the cofounders of our reverse mentoring program, and I currently lead our next generation initiative today called Connect.

So how did we get started in the program? Almost five years ago now, a senior executive, a white male specifically, was sitting around in the executive committee and a light bulb went off in his head where he said, “We really need to start engaging this millennial population. They’re growing fast, they’re going to be taking over the workplace in numbers, and we need to figure out a way to do this here at Pershing BNY Mellon.”

And so he tapped on another colleague of mine and myself, who were working in this business at the time, and he said, “Here’s my thought, help me figure this out.”

Obviously, reverse mentoring is not a new concept. Jack Welch and GE were really the pioneers of this many years ago, but as we did some research, we thought this was probably a really great program to kick off and tackle here at the firm with this growing millennial population, and we also saw that there weren’t really very many financial institutions doing anything like this today.

With that senior executive’s help, we sat down with Lisa and our CEO at that time, Ron, and they were all in from the very beginning. They just said, “Yes, let’s do it.” Why was that important? It gave us the confidence to know that we had, all the way at the top of the house, the buy-in to get something like this done and the support at that level. Ultimately, it was going to validate that to the rest of the organization.

JENNIFER BROWN: I love it. What I’m hearing is really from the voice of millennials, putting them in a driver’s seat, but you were very careful to engage the top of the house, because we also know that change can be driven, and needs to be driven, from the top as well as the bottom up. Then there’s the middle, of course, and the engagement in the middle of the equation, too, which can also lead to its own unique challenges.

I think you’ve lined it up really effectively, and you checked some very important boxes in how you structured it, which is key. It’s like setting your compass in the right direction before you set out on your journey.

Lisa, tell me from where you sit as a leader in the firm, how did this idea of a reverse mentoring program address some challenges that you were wrestling with as a business, with your changing marketplace and demographic, with the talent you were trying to attract. What was it going to go after solving for you as a business leader?

LISA DOLLY: Well, at the time, we started this prior to 2017, but we knew very soon the millennial generation was going to be the largest generation in the workforce today. This is not a future dilemma, it’s a today dilemma.

In fact, they’re very soon going to be the largest living generation. So the values, the issues that are important to millennials are going to become very important in the workplace very soon. And so we wanted to address those issues and begin to put a plan in place so that we could be ready.

JENNIFER BROWN: That’s exactly right. What I love about the way you framed it, it was beyond, “Let’s have millennials mentors mentor executives around technology.” It didn’t go for the easy answer, which is the one that everybody thinks. It’s really in service of innovation and truly the attraction and retention, which is where a lot of companies fall down, that retention piece. How will you build a deeper relationship with this new generation? How do they want to be seen and heard? How do they want to be included? How do they want to bring their expertise, even though they are young, and we may sort of bristle at the concept of young people having expertise.

But at the same time, we need all voices to be advising a company in how to pivot, positioning younger voices that match the changing demographic of your customer base, and know that demographic because they maybe come from that demographic, too. They’re more diverse in gender, they’re more diverse ethnically. That’s a critical piece that a lot of leadership teams are out of touch with.

This program went after that and was so much more than, “Show me how to use social media.” Although, I’m sure that it did include those kinds of conversations.

Speaking of diversity, Jamilynn, how did you define diversity as you thought about constructing the program? How did you bake it into the structure? Help us picture the demographics of both the mentors and the mentees.

JAMILYNN: Absolutely. From the very beginning, diversity was important to us when we were putting together what I’ll call our beta group of the initial millennial reverse mentors and the senior executive mentees.

We, early on, partnered with HR. So our program is a grassroots, business-run program. It’s not run out of HR today, but we’ve worked closely with them from the very beginning, A, to make sure that we were doing everything in the proper way, and number two, to ensure that we were considering all types of diversity necessary.

So I’m very proud to say that since the very beginning from the reverse mentor perspective, we’re almost 50/50 males and females in our program. We did that for a reason; we wanted to ensure that we had diverse voices at the table.

In our initial group, we had diverse backgrounds, we also had geographical representation. Pershing has many locations here in the United States and globally, so we had multiple U.S. locations represented, and then we also had someone in the U.K. represented. We’ve continued to expand our program with additional folks in the U.K. as well as Liverpool.

Additionally, the same at the senior executive level. We started initially with a mix of senior executive males and females in multiple geographical locations, and then from there, we continued to expand to the broader executive committee, and then furthermore, through the years, we’ve added additional managing directors, always keeping diversity at the forefront.

One other interesting point. We have also done relationships that weren’t always in the same location together. What I mean by that is someone in Jersey City would be mentoring a senior executive in our Lake Mary, Florida office, or a millennial in the U.K. would be mentoring a senior executive here in our Jersey City office. A lot of that was done via Skype or chat, e-mail, phone calls.

LISA DOLLY: It’s interesting that the initial creation of the program, which of course was designed by a group of millennials, is highly reflective of the values of the millennials in the workforce. Millennials today are the first generation that’s getting closer to a 50-percent ethnic minority base. They’re also the first generation coming to the workplace as native digitals. And they love to blend ideas, collaborate, and are comfortable doing so in an electronic way. You can see all those elements directly in the creation of this program.

JENNIFER BROWN: I love that way of looking at it. It’s bigger than social media, but I think your point is that the utilization of technology and the comfort level in the way they work and the way they collaborate is also part of the point of the program. You can be anywhere and actually learning how to establish a deeper relationship, when you ever never sat in the same room with someone, is probably truly something that actually our digital natives, our millennial workforce are the most comfortable with generationally.

We learn a whole lot on my team from our younger folks. They challenge us, and we are walking the talk when it comes to sharing how to manage the diversity and create that inclusive experience when it is entirely virtual. It’s an interesting challenge to do that because as you and I know, you can’t be sitting across from someone in the same room reading their body language, assessing whether they’re understanding what we’re talking about, whether they’re engaged, et cetera. It’s a new skill set to be able to build a relationship, influence each other, and learn from each other almost entirely virtually.

When you add in the geographic diversity as well, it’s not just about race and gender diversity, but diversity of thought, region, location, background, office—all of it. We talk a lot on The Will to Change about the broadening definition of diversity and how it needs to be inclusive of all these pieces.

Lisa, I wanted to know, when we say the words “executive mentees,” it challenges us because we don’t normally think of executives as mentees, but they are in this program. Tell us about the process of gaining buy-in for this concept at the executive level. What was the response like? Did you get any resistance? Did you feel any resistance yourself? I think I know the answer to that, you were probably very gung ho, but tell us about what you encountered and how you sold this idea to that level in particular.

LISA DOLLY: Folks were bought in from the beginning, and they were anxious and excited about trying it out. There were some naysayers in the crowd, although they wouldn’t be verbal about it because, of course, I was standing in front saying this was important to me. It’s kind of going to be difficult for them to stand up and say that, but they’ll act in a way that they’re comfortable with.

Everyone wanted to try it. They weren’t certain about it, but they were willing to try. What happened over time, maybe not even through the first cycle, because we cycled after 12 of 18 months, we would switch out the mentors, and we would all receive a new mentor.

By the second cycle, everyone pretty much was on board, everyone was bought in. In fact, today, it’s a voluntary participation because we’re on our fourth and fifth mentor and every single person subscribes and re-ups into the program.

JENNIFER BROWN: That’s great. Do you have any advice for those who are listening to this thinking, “We need something like this”? What would you recommend people lead with if they do not have such a track record that you all have established now, where everybody’s clamoring to be a part of the program, but they are getting started. Can you take us back to that? How do you position something like this and get people over that hurdle of, “I’m an executive, what can I possibly learn from our millennial talent?”

LISA DOLLY: We set it out with guidelines and guardrails, but we also left it very flexible to allow the mentor and mentee to establish the relationship, to work at their own pace, and to touch on the topics that were important to them as a unit. That allowed people to not feel intimidated by it in either way.

Jamilynn, you can jump in when you want to, but the millennial group would then go back and huddle. They would find commonality, themes, and then they would use those to come back and draw out pieces of conversation. They were leading the conversations in a lot of ways. The structure was flexible enough to allow people not to feel threatened or intimidated about what the expectation was, and allowed it to meander a little bit. That allowed for a lot of creativity, innovation, and ideas to come out of the program.

JAMILYNN: I couldn’t agree more with Lisa’s comments. I would just add two things. One, having millennial and executive leadership is critical. Having a partnership with someone at the millennial level, with someone on the EC leading the effort. Number two, Lisa referenced the reverse mentor group meets on a monthly basis, actually twice a month, and these meetings are incredibly important to our success because they allow us to bring topics that were discussed in their one-on-one meetings and get the perspective of the entire group.

When Lisa’s reverse mentor goes back and sits down with her, she’s hearing not just one view, she’s hearing multiple views, and different points based on everyone’s experience, background, et cetera. We found that incredibly critical to our success.

I’ll also make a plug, Jennifer, to the white paper that we’ve worked together on. It has a lot of these details in there, some best practices, and even more of our history and how we got here. It’s on in our thought leadership section called Perspectives.

JENNIFER BROWN: Indeed. It does live there. We will send this link out to everyone on The Will to Change subscriber list. You’ll be able to locate this white paper that Jamilynn is talking about that goes into more detail. Thank you, Jamilynn.

Back to you, Lisa. You have had four millennial mentors in the many cycles that you’ve participated in, which is so illuminating I’m sure, and I’m sure that it has contributed to your evolution as a leader and the way that you approach things. What were some stereotypes that really need to be challenged about the millennial generation in the workplace? Did you find there were stereotypes around the other generations as well? Tell us a little bit about what has shifted for you as a result of this learning.

LISA DOLLY: It’s funny, this is the only generation that really has come into work with stereotypes before they actually got there.

JAMILYNN: It’s true.

LISA DOLLY: It’s taken the silent generation a long time to generate their stereotypes, and my generation a long time, but for millennials, they had a stereotype before they even got their first job. It’s clearly unfair, and that’s likely the case with every stereotype.

There are two things I’d like to highlight: Number one, millennials feel privilege and are hard to please and they all need continuous patting on the head. Which is a really bad stereotype, because what I have found is that millennials want to participate. It’s not that they are privileged or hard to please, in fact giving access, which one of the easiest ways that companies can reward someone or engage employees versus pay and compensation and benefits, it’s a whole lot easier to allow participation and influence. It’s really that millennials want strong engagement with the company that they’re working for.

The second stereotype is that millennials are not loyal, which is clearly not the case. It’s just that we are trying to engage a population of workers using old tools and old methodologies. When we employ new methodologies and the way in which millennials would like to participate, which fits in well with every rule of engagement. We have a group of workers who want to engage more with the company, and all we need to do is engage them more. It’s really a win-win. This concept around millennials not being a loyal workforce is absolutely wrong.

JENNIFER BROWN: Jamilynn, I’ll be you agree with that. I’m sure that this opportunity of building and mentoring executives has probably built loyalty at the company. Can you elaborate on that and how that’s felt for you on the other end?

JAMILYNN: Absolutely. One of the things I’m most proud of about our program is, since inception, we have over a 90-percent retention rate of all millennials that have rotated through this program. That statistic right there shows you that there is loyalty and when you have an opportunity to sit down and mentor a senior executive, it totally changes the way you think about yourself, your career, but the company in general.

One of the things that we’ve really seen, forget about generational stereotypes, but the millennials have had an incredible opportunity because the employer and employee relationship has changed, and it’s going to change even more. Over the past ten years, and then going into the future. This program came at almost a perfect timing with that.

You mentioned earlier, Jennifer, that people may have initially thought that the topics were about technology and social media. Honestly, yes, that’s come up a little bit, but a lot of our relationships have talked about things like culture, management, and leadership. The perception at the senior executive level when decisions are made or communications are sent out, but how does that feel to someone who’s on the ground, doing the work, and may layers below that senior executive who makes that choice? That’s where we’ve seen the real benefit coming out of it.

Changing perceptions and removing those layers to have real direct interactions and real dialogue that, honestly, 20 or 30 years ago was unheard of in the workplace.

JENNIFER BROWN: That’s for sure. I couldn’t agree more. It was sort of, “Know your place.” And if you’re junior, you’re doing the grunt work, your opinion is not considered, not valued, and you also need to, quote/unquote, put in your time in order to earn the seat at the table, in order to access the leaders at the firm. Frankly, that’s too long to wait. We don’t have a lot of time to retain younger talent. We need to immediately, when we hire folks, not lose them, and continue to engage them, challenge them, and speak to them as adults and full humans. Also, we need to put them in the position to teach from their world. Frankly, a lot of companies are utilizing old tools, like you said Lisa. We stereotype people, but we’re not honest about the fact that we’re still doing business in the way that we were decades ago. Not a lot has really changed.

The other point I wanted to make is I love that this program puts millennial talent on the radar screen of executives. Oftentimes, and we know this well with diverse talent in terms of gender and ethnicity, that we still pass over people because of unconscious or conscious bias. When we’re doing talent reviews, when we’re thinking about who is ready for the next opportunity, many companies struggle with knowing all of the talent in the organization and knowing all of those with high potential. Typically, they reach into their networks and pull up their friend or somebody they went to school with or somebody who looks just like them.

This is the challenge of getting talent—all talent—on the radar screen of decision makers so that more nontraditional or underrepresented talent makes it up that pipeline, ensuring that those critical decisions are made with more diverse slates.

I love that your millennial mentors are truly building relationships with the decision makers so that they can be promoted, sponsored, mentored, and looked after. That whole piece has so much to do with whether people stay in companies.

I had a woman of color say to me, “If you lose your sponsorship at this company, you may as well leave.” To me, what I heard in that is if you don’t have someone looking out for you, pulling you up, you can push all day long, but you need somebody to be pulling you up into those opportunities, looking out for you, providing air cover, and coaching you. This is creating that professional intimacy that is harder and harder to find in the workplace.

Particularly in time of the dynamics of Me Too, we have also seen a hesitation of that informal mentoring and the one-on-one relationship building. This program also gives that structure and rationale to continue to build these one-on-one relationships that are so critical to young women, talent of color, and other underrepresented talent. I love all the ancillary issues that this program is addressing.

I’m going to go to lessons learned and recommendations. I’m sure people are listening to think thinking, “We need a program like this.”

Jamilynn, you talked about results and ROI from the program. You talked about a 90 percent retention rate for all of the participates, which is phenomenal. I don’t know what the mean is, but I know that that’s above the mean.

Tell us some other results. I’d love to hear from both of you. What other programs have come out of this? What visibility has come out of this for executives? Any other innovations? Let’s start with you, Jamilynn, and then go over to Lisa.

JAMILYNN: Yes. Our retention rate, I would say, is one of the greatest successes that we’ve had in the program, something we’re most proud of. That number is above the general statistics of the organization from a retention perspective for millennials. Again, a direct tie to the data.

It’s also been a recruiting tool for us. Not only do we talk about it in our recruiting efforts at colleges and universities, but the leadership of our program meets with the interns across the firm every summer that they’re here. The energy and excitement from that group of people is tremendous. We always are with them well over the allotted time because of the interest and questions that they have in the program.

This program has also spread itself across the larger BNY Mellon enterprise. I’m also proud to share that we’ve implemented in quite a few different business resource groups at the firm, while also continuing our program here the Pershing.

There are a lot of different ideas and feedback, one-on-one relationships. There’s some great success we’ve had with talent. We’ve had great mobility with our millennial mentors, not only folks getting promoted, but moving around the organization. Obviously, that’s important. I’ll mention one thing. A lot of this information is also in our white paper on Pershing’s website.

When I mentored our CEO at the time before Lisa, Ron DeCicco, he and I spent a lot of time talking about perception and how you don’t really get to know leaders in business meetings, and how sometimes he thinks that people want to know more about him, but he didn’t always know the right way to do so.

We started an off-the-cuff series, which is exactly what the title says. It allows a millennial to sit down with typically their mentee, the senior executive, and off the cuff, ask them questions about their personal life, about their career journey, about some of their different leadership philosophies. It’s grown to be one of our most well-attended events across the firm, and we continue to do this almost on a quarterly basis today.

LISA DOLLY: I’d like to add to that. One of the things we haven’t talked so much about, it is beneficial to the millennial generation. There’s a lot of participation, engagement, excitement, and commitment that this generates. Quite honestly, the millennial generation is absolutely influencing business results.

Here are a few high-level ways in which I think they have been able to influence: Number one, all of our social media content from the executive committee and our communications from the executive committee out to our staff is drastically improve. There are certain key strategies that they have been helping us formulate. In fact, the team just worked on something we gave them called Workforce 2030, which is predicting what the modern workforce is going to look like in the year 2030, and how the gig economy will have impact to our business.

They have brought different perspectives and viewpoints to our communication through tone and approach, and they’ve helped us to refine some of our priorities and policies given what’s important to this generation.

JENNIFER BROWN: Lisa, I know you have had so many lessons. What has been the biggest lesson for you, if you had to pick something that really has shifted through your participation and leadership in the program? Perhaps that’s your understanding of the client experience, which is so critical.

LISA DOLLY: That was clearly an “ah-hah” moment for me. We’ve heard, of course, about the client experience and how important it is. To understand the priorities behind the client experience, I’ll just tell you a quick story.

My mentor Bill and I were having just a casual discussion. He was chastising or ribbing me a little bit because I was not as anxious to put my credit card information out onto Internet sites as he was. And he said, “Well, I do this because of convenience.” And I said, “I know, and I don’t because I’m concerned about safety and privacy.” And he said, “I would never give up convenience for the threat of my identity being stolen.”

That was an “ah-hah” moment for me because we have seven million individual investors on our platform. We spend multiples of $10 million every year on things like cybersecurity and protection and privacy. I don’t spend that much on convenience.

That conversation with my mentor changed my approach. Now, of course, we’re still going to be concerned about privacy and cyber threat and the like, but the importance of convenience certainly got ratcheted up in our level of priorities as a company.

JENNIFER BROWN: That’s a great example of thinking you know what the most important things are, but having that broadened. Just that one-click conversation, I’m sure, has been something that you’ve carried with you into your meetings and decision making. So much of generational diversity is recognizing when our lens is informing our business decisions. That is a generational lens. Acknowledging that what was important to us—is important to us—could be very different. Getting that diversity of thought around a table to make those decisions is invaluable. Otherwise, you will definitely miss something that could cost you a lot in terms of bottom line, customer retention, and delighting the customers, which is really what we all are here to do.

As we come to the close of the podcast, I just want to ask you: What have you learned? What might you do differently in your program? To me, it’s an incredible success story, and there is so much ROI that you both have talked about personal bottom-line ROI. What might you have done differently if you were setting the program up today? I know this is going to be really interesting because the vast majority of companies I work with have nothing like this.

What would you front-burner or center in terms of priorities? And an ancillary part two of that question: What kinds of diversity challenges are you still seeing in the program, if any? Or how are you putting more of an emphasis on that, and what in particular? I’d love to hear from both of you. Maybe, Jamilynn, if you’d like to start.

JAMILYNN: Sure, I’m happy to. A couple of things come to mind, but what stands out the most to me is putting more tangible goals in place. Lisa just outlined some of our business successes through the program, and we’ve had much engagement, retention, and recruiting success. From the beginning, we always struggled with what are the goals, what do we want to accomplish outside an engagement? Many different things have come up that we’ve had success with, but it’s been a little bit more fluid.

I think maybe tying it a little bit more to the business initially, I would have liked to see that early on.

LISA DOLLY: I would have started it earlier.

JAMILYNN: Oh, look at that! (Laughter.)


LISA DOLLY: Yes, we’re so pleased with the outcome of it that I wish we would have started a few years earlier to get an even bigger head start on it.

JAMILYNN: Also, what we’re trying to figure out now—maybe not a lesson learned, but taking it to the next level. Lisa and I have had many conversations about what to do next. What we’re finding, or what I personally have found, is people are people. There are always going to be generational stereotypes, absolutely. And one way I do believe millennials are privileged is because of the fact we have a seat at the table, we’ve been given a voice that other generations haven’t.

But at the same time, a lot of what we discover and put into play is wanted by everyone. This isn’t unique to millennials. What we have been trying to focus on here at Pershing BNY Mellon is how do we harness that more broadly for our entire employee base?

JENNIFER BROWN: I love that point, Jamilynn. That’s something we talk about so much. When we get tense about generational diversity—”we” meaning the older generations—I often make the point that a lot of what the new generation is asking for in the workplace are elements that we’ve all wanted that would have benefited all of us and made our lives easier, and potentially even retained more of us.

Now, I look at the pipeline all day long for our clients. We see that by the time people get to Lisa’s level, we don’t see the diversity that we started with. We haven’t successfully been able to retain that diversity because it thins out as people go through the years and get promoted, to the point where now you have management teams that don’t look anything like the younger generation in the workforce, and don’t look anything like the customer base and the diversity there.

The message coming from this generation needs to be heeded. The good news about it, Jamilynn, is that you all are confident enough in your value that you can step into that room and own the insights and be proactive about what you want and need in order to stay with an employer, but know that that’s the kind of voice and certainty that the other generations really craved. For many reasons, we didn’t have the power, the might, the upbringing to utilize our voice in the same way.

Personally, I think it’s really inspiring. I will tell you, we need a lot more listening to be happening on the part of companies and the part of leaders. It’s not only what’s the worst that can happen, it’s actually, to me, a life-saving and company-saving practice to make sure that we are listening to under-35 talent. What do they want? What do they need? How do they want to show up? How do they want to be seen, heard, and engaged? How can we keep them here?

Those lessons are, in fact, good for all of us. There’s a certain universality about going after this that’s going to benefit all of us, whatever age we’re at.

That’s why we were inspired to write this paper, Jamilynn, that we worked on together. It’s to tell that story and flip the narrative, challenge people’s assumptions, and put new voices in the driver’s seat. I think that can benefit all companies.

I want to thank you both for your time today. Do you have any final thought for the audience as we wrap up? I’m hoping they get very inspired by this, read the paper, and get the recipe you used. You can start small. Jamilynn, how many pairs did you have in that first cohort?



JAMILYNN: We are well over 35.

JENNIFER BROWN: Amazing. So you started with nine. I think that everyone in an organization can find nine, how hard can that be? Put it out there. Provide the paper, share it with your executives. Get that one “Lisa” on board to make sure that the message of the intent of the program is well positioned. I think people are more ready than ever before for this kind of approach.

I want to thank both of you. Final thoughts? Either one of you, what would you like to leave our audience with?

JAMILYNN: Jennifer, thank you so much for your partnership and for telling our story. We’re incredibly proud of the work that we’ve done over the past five years.

I will go out on a limb here to say despite the stereotypes, in confident that the entire millennial team that’s been a part of this program feel incredibly privileged and know that this is a once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity to not only be a reverse mentor, but to be a part of an initiative like this at Pershing. And we’re really proud to work for an organization who supports us and gives us an opportunity like this.

For anyone out there thinking about it, please keep that in mind. I’m sure there are many associates at your organization who would feel the same.

LISA DOLLY: Well said.

JENNIFER BROWN: Lisa, any final thoughts?

LISA DOLLY: I would echo Jamilynn. We couldn’t be happier with the results of the program. I know it’s having business influence today, and demonstrating real results today that are impacting the business. It’s only the tip of the iceberg that this is going to really have significant change going into the future, how we operate, and how successful we are.

JENNIFER BROWN: Thank you both for your leadership, for creating this innovation, being ahead of the curve asking very critical questions, and coming up with an innovative way to solve them in the form of this program. For the whole diversity and inclusion conversation, even though perhaps it wasn’t intended to do that explicitly, it’s answering a lot of the persistent challenges that I know may business leaders and younger talent have in terms of finding their voice, utilizing their voice, and sharing power in order to build nimble, more flexible, and more welcoming organizations.

Thank you both for coming on The Will to Change. We will share the link for the white paper broadly in the show notes for this episode. I will add the exact link into my social media.

Thank you both for your efforts, and may you continue to create more mentor/mentee pairs, enjoy success, and mentor other companies on their journey.

JAMILYNN: Absolutely, thank you again, Jennifer.

LISA DOLLY: Thank you, Jennifer.


To read the white paper about the reverse mentoring program, click here.