What is Reverse Mentoring and why is it important?

Reverse Mentoring  is when an older executive is paired with a younger employee and the second one is in charge of mentor the first one in topics such as technology, social media, current trends, among others.  It is very common to rely on technology and Reverse Mentoring ends up to be seen as a way to up to date old employees in the technology field since it is very common that younger employees are deeply integrated with computers and the Web.  

The definition for Reverse Mentoring provided by Techopedia says that:

technology_reverse_mentoring_suzzanne uhland
Image courtesy of Backdoor Survival at Flickr.com

“The idea that senior executives could stand to learn a thing or two from new employees goes against traditional workplace practices, where most more experienced workers often provide the most input, make decisions and provide mentorship to newer employees with less experience. However, the fast-moving developments in technology and trends has reversed this logic in some offices, where older workers may have experience and insight, but lack strong skills in newer technologies.”

Hence, it can be said that younger employees help older senior executives to develop skills required to foster in technology. And, it is not for free. There are some skills that senior executive need to develop or learn in order to use better tools offered in the web.

Nevertheless, some executives feel insulted by the idea of being mentored by a new employee that is much younger than them. But, they after a while stop thinking in that way since younger employees also want to learn more about their mentees. And, communication improves overall as well as collaboration in the company.

The spread of Reverse Mentoring is usually credited to the former CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch. It was in the 1990’s when he realized that GE managers had much to learn about internet and the tools there offered. So that, he as well as other top executives took a reverse mentoring. It was not for free that he was chosen “The CEO of XX Century”. In fact, he raised his company’s value 4000% and placed it as one of the most important companies in the world.

Jack Welch_reverse mentoring_suzzanne uhland
Image courtesy of Mr.Lobo at Flickr.com

Jack Welch noticed something that other people might ignore. In the common believes, people think that the longer they work, the less they need to learn. And, this make them beign so wrong.  Contrary, the longer they work for a company, the most they need to learn what is new on technology, communications, politics. For instance, politics they can be up to date reading newspapers, magazines and the complete sources of information there are on internet. However, skills that are more common on young people are not found at any place. It is by practice when they learn how to deal with new apps for example. Furthermore, young employees probably ignora a lot of things that CEOs know but they do know how to deal with technology. In this case, both of them learn something from each other.

The Reverse Mentoring program has emerged to be a very good option for companies. For instance, they do not need to hire someone only for that purpose, and expose their confidential information. Also, the young employee could learn a lot from the CEO and also, the mentor could be the communication between the top employees and the regular employees. If there is any problem top-down, the mentor (the younger employee) will be the primary source of information and this is how solutions could be more effective.

Why forming a Reverse Mentoring relationship could benefit the company?

Because Reverse Mentoring can bridge the gap between generations in the workforce (born between 1946-1964), generation X (born between 1965-1976), generation Y (born between 1977 and 1998). Since they have experienced different socio-cultural situations, they have different tenets, mindsets, attitudes, and ethics.  In this manner, Reverse Mentoring led to eliminate prejudices and stereotypes inside the company.  All around will think about the teamwork as a whole and not as a different kinds of generations grouped to do the same thing.

It is important that senior team member not believe that their younger mentors do not have value knowledge to share with them, and for that reason they will not be opened to receive what their mentors have to share. Actually, if both parts agree to give mutual feedback about the process, this will enhance the mentor and the mentee to do their best.