Most traditional mentoring scenarios assume the pairing of an experienced leader or professional with a younger person to achieve a goal or overcome a challenge.
Now, more and more we are seeing experienced professionals turning to "reverse mentoring" in which individuals – older and younger – encourage mutual growth, and each gain new knowledge and expertise as a result.
At a time when technology and the way organisations operate are changing so rapidly, individuals need to look for every opportunity to keep their knowledge and skills relevant. Reverse mentoring has become a way for professionals to strengthen skills and competencies in the interest of remaining competitive in today's marketplace.
The practice of reverse mentoring became more widespread after Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, required his top-level executives to connect with employees below them to learn how to use the internet.
- Reverse mentoring can be used to kick-start creative thinking and to close the knowledge and skills gap for both parties
- It gives a less experienced professional access to a more experienced professional's business insight, while the experienced professional learns about the latest technology trends and skills
- Reverse mentoring can help to increase both participants' productivity as it gives them a channel for getting questions answered and finding resources quickly, saving time and effort
- As with any mentoring relationship, a productive reverse mentoring relationship will also help produce increased confidence and expanded communication skills
For reverse mentoring to work, younger professionals need to feel confident enough to share their opinions and give feedback to older colleagues.
Likewise, senior professionals need to overcome their pride and fears and be open with their younger mentors, revealing areas where they lack skills and knowledge and be open to receiving feedback from them.
If these issues are addressed, reverse mentoring can be incredibly rewarding.
Last reviewed: 22 June 2021