Reverse mentoring: skills exchange between digital natives and seniors

Reverse Mentoring is the process by which young people, typically with less experience but with significant digital skills, can assist seniors with lengthy working experience who are seeking a mutual exchange in order to familiarise themselves with technology. Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electrics is considered to be the one who initiated the first Reverse Mentoring program in 1999, when he asked 500 of his top managers to find young workers who could explain the use of the internet to them. The emergence of new technologies has brought with it a digital divide between older and younger employees of companies, namely a gap in knowledge and in the practical ability to use the new technologies. Traditionally, the person with greater experience as the one capable of looking after a problem more effectively, due to the skills acquired throughout his career, but seniors today have no choice but to study and try out new digital tools, which are often of key importance for tackling organisational challenges. In reverse mentoring the young person’s digital skills and the older person’s experience meet in the middle, thus enhancing in both parties their knowledge and awareness of the surrounding world. The culture of the digital world in which those under 35 (or even under 20) were born, is transmitted to the older person who, in turn, can enhance young peoples’ awareness and understanding of the working world, from the perspective of someone with years of activity and goals achieved behind them. A program of reverse mentoring can occur through formal meetings between the senior and the junior, with the mutual commitment to help the other person to learn about different aspects of the work. For example, the project management capabilities of both generations can be activated if, on the one hand, young people give instruction on the use of digital tools for the management of a project such as an e-calendar, the organisation of remote meetings or digital tools for the planning of activities. On the other hand, seniors can transmit unchanging principles in order to achieve the results of a project such as the formulation of a vision or the definition of an effective goal. If reverse mentoring if properly implemented within the organisation it can become a tool for improving various processes such as talent management, employer branding, promotion of diversity, bridging the digital gap, leadership development, the exchange of intergenerational content , the dissemination of internal know-how and the promotion of a lifelong learning culture. Marco Amicucci

written by: Marco Amicucci , 12 February 2015

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