“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” -John F. Kennedy
In an everchanging society, where technology is rapidly changing, continued professional learning and development is crucial. After spending years in an organization, it can be easy to assume that you have nothing more to learn especially from entry level employees.[i] Contrary to traditional beliefs, senior level employees can, in fact learn from entry level team members as well.[ii] This is becoming increasingly true as ‘digital natives’ begin to enter the workforce.
In recent years, a new and unique tribe of employees is beginning to enter the workforce.[iii] This younger generation has been educated using the latest technology and they are fully immersed in the latest digital trends. One of the most unique characteristics of this new generation is that many of its members do not remember a time in their lives where technology did not exist. From grade school through college, this generation has used technology in nearly every aspect of their life. Technology that others may have to spend time to learn is second nature to this generation. Pairing industry knowledge and experience with the modern technology know-how can help your organization scale to new heights.
Traditionally, in order to learn and develop new skills, an entry level employee would be partnered with a senior level employee in what is called a mentorship. In this type of mentorship, the senior level employee would share their knowledge, skills, and experience with the new employee. This was the only known form of mentorship until Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric coined the concept of reverse mentoring. This idea came to fruition when he realized his own lack of technology skills and discovered that he was able to learn technology through some of the younger employees within his organization.[iv] This was a monumental moment in the world of mentorship – seasoned employees and new employees were now able to learn from each other.
Reverse mentoring refers to the idea that senior level executives are paired with and mentored by newer employees to become current on topics such as technology, social media, and other contemporary trends.[v] This is not meant to discredit the value of traditional mentorship as the knowledge and experience of senior leaders is crucial to the success of new employees. However, reverse mentorship is simply suggesting that if mentorship was used both ways, it could be mutually beneficial. Reverse mentorship is truly a breakthrough in bridging the generational gap.[vi]
Benefits of Reverse Mentoring
Reverse mentoring and mentorship in general provides a plethora of benefits to any organization. According to a study by the Centre for Workplace Leadership, 71% of Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs.[vii] Reverse mentorship can also help improve engagement in employees of all levels. This type of mentorship provides seasoned leaders with the technology knowledge to make them unstoppable in their roles. Additionally, new, younger employees become comfortable interacting with upper level management. They are able to learn the skills necessary to successfully communicate with top level leaders by modeling. By strengthening the relationship between managers and employees, you will in-turn promote increased collaboration and creativity. Additionally, by allowing new employees to share their knowledge with others, they will feel as though their thoughts, ideas, and knowledge are valued within the organization.
Reverse mentorship can be a great way to break through the hierarchy within your organization. This type of program could be a monumental breakthrough in bridging the generational gap.