Today’s business environment may be the first to face the challenge of having five different generations working side by side towards achieving shared economic and value-driven goals. For business leaders, managing multiple generations in the workplace may not be as simple, as every generation presents its unique challenges, expectations, perspectives, communication styles, and ways of working.
However, adopting a management style, system and strategy that addresses these distinct generational characteristics can provide the right impetus to tap into the massive potential and strength resident in a multigenerational workforce. Ultimately, it positions businesses to be able to compete better and effectively create value to all stakeholders. One approach that can be adopted by business owners is the reverse mentoring strategy.
The art of mentoring has evolved ever since its inception through formal research in the 1980s. A type of mentoring relationship that is gaining prominence in our world today is “Reverse mentoring”. According to Techopedia, Reverse Mentoring is “an initiative in which older executives are paired with and mentored by younger employees on topics such as technology, social media and current trends.”
Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, is given credit as the leader who invented the first-ever reverse mentoring program at GE in 1999. Since the very idea of mentoring can be defined as the delicate balance between “coaching, guidance, feedback, encouragement, and emotional support.” Hence, mentoring can happen both ways. Forward-thinking organisations are now leveraging the vast potential that exists within it, in the form of the younger generation to deepen that emotional bond between ages and aid collaboration in the workplace.
Reverse mentoring can be a potent tool to break down traditional barriers that impede the advancement of different generations in the workplace. Through reverse mentoring, organisations can promote a sense of belonging and stronger connections between their colleagues. The model works the same way traditional mentoring programmes operate. The only difference is the younger assumes the role of the mentor, while the senior colleague becomes the protégé. Smart organisations are using this form of mentoring to bridge the knowledge gap that exists between generations. As the demand for technology is increasing in the 21st-century workplace, especially as the whole world eases into the new normal of remote work, the need to ensure the knowledge of tech-use is uniform across generations becomes key.
It is often said that when purpose is not understood, abuse is inevitable. When the purpose of mentoring is not known, the probability of the relationship being abused becomes very high. Once a mentor-protégé relationship does not have a specific meaning behind it, over time, it will not yield the necessary fruits intended. This is the same reason why mentoring programmes, as well as reverse mentoring initiatives, fail.
Asides from helping the older generation understand how to leverage technology, the programme also helps to build self-confidence on technology topics. In general, workplace efficiency and collaboration are enhanced exponentially.
In conclusion, setting up an effective reverse mentoring programme takes some hard work and meticulous calculations to ensure its effectiveness.
You can contact us by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like us to work with your organisation to set up an effective reverse mentoring programme that delivers value to both employees and the business.
Head of Advisory, People Transformation