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Reverse Mentoring: A Win-Win

Updated: Feb 19, 2020

I gave a leadership talk this morning to an angel investment group of mostly Boomer and Silent Generation women about managing five generations in the workplace. One of the tips I suggested was reverse mentoring.

Mentoring can be a valuable vehicle for sharing knowledge and insight among employees—especially when it is the younger teaching the older! Millennials and Gen Z—in particular the latter, who've never known a non-digital world—have innate familiarity and ease with the latest technologies, and in the workplace they're more than willing to share that intuitive understanding with their superiors to help them stay ahead of the digital curve.

General Electric CEO Jack Welch first developed the idea of reverse mentorship two decades ago, creating a revolutionary GE program that paired 500 senior executives with younger employees to teach them about the then-still-mysterious internet. Today, savvy companies, including Target, Microsoft and UnitedHealth, just to name a few, recognize the invaluable digital insight that young employees can share with executives. Simultaneously, the process comes with the added bonus of helping junior staffers to feel better heard and more valued within the workplace.

French insurance company Axe, which implemented a reverse mentoring program in 2015, found that 97% of those who've participated in the program would recommend it and say that it's changed their relationship to digital technology.

After insurance company The Hartford implemented its own reverse mentorship program, 80 percent of participants rated the project "extremely effective/effective" for the business, while 97 percent rated it "extremely effective/effective" for personal development.

Reverse mentoring can help promote a healthier corporate culture: Of The Hartford's first wave of young mentors, an impressive 92% were promoted within a year of the program's inception. And after financial services giant Pershing recently ushered in a reverse mentoring program, the company reported a 96% retention rate among its young mentors.

If your company is looking for solutions to the challenges of navigating five generations in the workplace for the first time ever, contact me through my website.

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