What do Ron, a 62-year-old regional vice president, and MacKenzie, a 25-year-old program coordinator, have in common? Maybe nothing, and that’s the beauty of it, because it means they both have something to learn from one another.
Reverse mentoring is just as it sounds. It matches up workers of different generations to share skills, knowledge, and perspectives. Employees, like Ron, can learn new things about social media—and rookies, like MacKenzie, can learn how to navigate the inner workings of the professional world. The sharing of information can encourage an openness that is helpful in times of change and uncertainty, when trust and communication are so critical.
As an added bonus, through reverse mentoring, a company is fostering a culture of collaboration and inclusivity.
Here are the top three reasons why you should give it a try at your organization.
- To gain a fresh perspective. Here’s an opportunity to show older employees why having an online presence can help the business or different ways technology can streamline processes. The younger workers can get an insider’s view of how the business really works (not typically taught in the classroom!), how to navigate "office politics," and of different industry insights that can take years to learn.
- To close the gap on generational stereotypes. The best way to debunk a stereotype is to get to know a person. We’ve all heard the false generalizations of how older employees are resistant to change and younger workers are addicted to their devices. Having different generations working together not only clears up misconceptions, people discover things they really like about that age group, resulting in better working relationships.
- To better understand age, racial, and gender diversity. Having the higher-ups meet with and get to know the newbies in the company can open the door to a more understanding environment of what appeals to employees across age, race, and gender. Real conversations about cultural competence, social responsibility, and pay equity can add a level of transparency and honesty that is welcomed in today’s workplace.
Reverse mentoring can make a positive difference in any organization. It doesn’t need to be formal and it doesn’t need to cost anything to do. Organizations that take the time to try it may yield a more connected workforce and help create a culture that is engaged and inclusive.