Updated: Feb 19, 2020
Mentoring can be an incredibly valuable vehicle for sharing knowledge and insight among employees, but it needn't just be the older teaching the younger. Millennials and Gen Z—in particular the latter, who've never known a non-digital world—have innate familiarity and ease with the very 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 gave legs to 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. Now as then, 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. Similarly Stateside, 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.
Importantly too, 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 you want to learn more about tactics for handling the five generation workforce we now have, I give an interesting corporate talk based on my upcoming book, “Culture Shock: Surviving Five Generations in One Workplace.” It explores the different styles of the five generations currently in the workforce, talks about human beings' resistance to change, and provides solutions for what companies can do to adopt, innovate and grow. You can reach us through the contact section of our website.
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