Reverse Mentoring

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By Maria Krowicki - Mentoring….coaching……constant feedback…….These are some of the things the Y generation is looking for as they navigate their career paths. We have seen articles, reports and statistics indicating this is what the Millennials need to succeed. But what about the Traditionalists, Boomers and X’ers. If they are the Mentors, who is mentoring them?

For years, companies have viewed mentoring, whether formally or informally, as a way to pass on knowledge and experience to up and coming professionals within the organization. With the explosion of the technological revolution, it is not uncommon for young, entry level staff to have a better understanding of technology than their managers. Many companies are shifting gears with a different type of mentoring called reverse mentoring.

Reverse mentoring matches younger employees who are, say, tech savvy with senior managers who may not be up on the latest trends. With Millennials growing up in the computer age, one can’t ask for better teachers. They live and breathe it everyday, and are always up on the latest happenings. Why not use the knowledge that is housed within the organization to its maximum advantage?

Reverse mentoring became mainstream in 1999 when General Electric’s then-CEO Jack Welch ordered several hundred of his top managers to team up with younger employees to learn about the Internet. Since then, reverse mentoring has been useful for managing intergenerational differences in the workplace, understanding young consumers and generating new ideas.

My friend Gail is a result of reverse mentoring. Being a Boomer, she has learned so much from the Gen X & Y groups that she may have not been able to learn on her own without going back to school. She was very receptive to what the “youngsters” had to offer and absorbed everything they knew, and it got her to where she is today – a Production Manager for a national mortgage company.

There are some things you can’t learn in school. They have to be experienced one-on-one with someone willing to work with you – whether it’s the old teaching the young or the young teaching the old. It works both ways if you let it.

Who says you can’t teach an “old dog” new tricks.

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