Reverse Mentoring and its impact

Jack Welch, the CEO of General Electric is credited with the invention of Reverse mentoring. It was he who teamed up the senior employees of his company with the younger ones, to let the latter teach the former about ‘Internet’. Well, CEO for a reason, huh?

Reverse mentoring is when younger employees are paired with the senior ones to mentor them on various topics, mostly technological advancements, and cultural relevance. The idea is to bring them à la mode with the current happenings of the world.

Why now?

The need for Reverse mentoring is now more than ever because people are becoming aware of the falseness in the widely spread misconception that longer the experience, the more one knows and lesser is the need to learn. Not so. As much as years may add to experience, it does not help when it comes to being up to date. Unfortunately, the more experienced employees tend to be the most outdated ones in the domain of technology, because the innovations and inventions are so rapid that it demands one be born in that era to master it.

The traditional top-down learning is counterbalanced by the wildly available knowledge in the internet. Even if not fully, this knowledge compensates for the lack of experience, technically at least. We do not live in the age of letters anymore, neither do we send e-mails and wait for replies.

A professional friendship

When young people mentor their seniors, it is more of a professional friendship. They do not play the role of a traditional mentor, giving personal and professional advice, rather only share their knowledge and expertise on the subject matter. Unlike Jack Welch, the CEOs of today do not have the need to teach their employees on the Internet, since the most senior of employees are familiar with it. The problem is that the Internet is not enough. There is much more to do with the Internet. That is where Millennials and Generation Z turn up. For instance, applications like Pinterest, WhatsApp, Buffer, Agorapulse, Hootsuite, etc., that are essential for social engagement and content publishing, though can be used personally, make a lot of sense to be used professionally. Not being adept at these results in losing out on marketing, branding, social liaison, and business transformation agency.

What do they bring to the table?

  • Their birth era

The interesting part is that most of these applications that remain as a play tool for the kids of this generation, were not even designed until some employees hit their 40s and 50s. And these kids are the junior employees we were talking about. They had their hands on new innovations and current technologies long before they became eligible to be an employee. Hence it is to their advantage that they did not learn to use the applications as a technical tool in their workplace, instead had fun using them for personal purposes. This is why one should willingly learn stuff from young employees rather than from someone who has learnt it for the sole purpose of using it in the office.

  • Their enthusiasm

One can wonder what a person, not even half their age, contribute towards mentorship other than showing off their technological skills. But they can. Working with younger employees have the upside of paying attention to their childlike enthusiasm and ‘not taking no for an answer’ attitude. For most of the senior employees, nothing is exciting anymore. They are so used to their work and are experts at it, that nothing is challenging. Reverse mentoring will open up an opportunity for them because the enthusiasm of younger employees, though sometimes annoying, is often contagious.

  • Their curious minds

It is important to acknowledge that these are the people who had developed their skills, not from what they were taught inside a classroom but out of curiosity and definitely out of their comfort zones. Being born with gadgets, they are quick learners and it is a lot easier for them to learn and master new technologies as they pop in.

Why is this difficult?

Ask your senior employees to pick out mentors from the new joiners.

Sounds simple, but is it? Not gonna lie, but there are reasons why this type of mentoring is difficult to roll out. Millennials and Z’s are a bunch of highly intelligent fun-loving people, who can sometimes be a pain in the neck. They have a reputation for being spoiled egomaniacs who are tough to train and discipline. Not entirely a false accusation one might say and hence it is understandable when a senior person is sceptical about Reverse mentoring techniques.

However, they come as a package that has more good stuff to deliver. Their brains compensate for their baggage. Hence, it can only be for the company’s as well as the employee’s benefit to overlook disappointments and learn from the young, the best and the shrewd.

How does it impact young mentors?

  • The responsibility

Newton’s third law sure plays its part. The young employees who are now asked to be mentors have a tendency to become responsible, and why, for the same reason why a teacher appoints one rogue of a student to be a leader of the class and expects him/her to be responsible, knowing full well he/she will. A sense of duty creates in anyone a sense of responsibility.

  • Not what but how

While they are transferring expertise, they might also learn how to teach what they know. Given the right people, they might end up learning why technology is not enough and certainly not everything in a workplace.

  • The relationship

Unlike mentoring in general, the junior employees do not render marital, financial or relationship advice to their mentees. Instead stick to sharing their technical proficiencies. If they are lucky enough, they might receive personal advice from the most experienced employees, in this case, their mentees. But that is only a bonus. They eventually find out that the personal and professional relationships they form with senior employees will likely be their biggest reward.

In an era where overlooking errors is underrated, it is only right we give credit where credit is due and zealously learn what we can. For who knows, if it works out well, your mentor can be to you, what Betsy Balcombe was to Napolean, who’s surname needs no mention.


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