Reverse mentoring refers to an initiative in which older executives are paired with and mentored by younger employees on topics such as technology, social media and current trends. In the tech industry or other businesses that rely heavily on technology, reverse-mentoring is seen as a way to bring older employees up to speed in areas that are often second nature to 20-something employees, whose lives have been more deeply integrated with computers and the Web.
The idea that senior executives could stand to learn a thing or two from new employees goes against traditional workplace practices, where most more experienced workers often provide the most input, make decisions and provide mentorship to newer employees with less experience. However, the fast-moving developments in technology and trends has reversed this logic in some offices, where older workers may have experience and insight, but lack strong skills in newer technologies.
Also, while some older executives are insulted by the notion of being mentored by a new employee, many see it as an opportunity for give and take, where new and experienced employees share their knowledge, boosting both groups' understanding and improving overall communication and collaboration in the workplace.
Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, has been credited with helping to spread the popularity of reverse mentoring. Back in the '90s, he realized that GE management had much to learn about the Internet, so he mandated that top executives at the company (including himself) take on a reverse mentor. High-profile cases like this have helped to ease the stigma of reverse mentoring, even getting it to the point where some older employees are actually requesting it.