Reverse mentoring for digital dinosaurs

By March 10, 2016Mentoring

Hi everyone- thought I would share this great article from the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal– it certainly gives you food for thought!

Mentoring has traditionally been about senior people ‘educating’ and guiding more junior staff, but the speed at which social media, the internet and technology in general is developing has necessitated a reversal of traditional roles: digital dinosaurs are now looking to digital natives for advice and support. Jack Welch, former chief executive of General Electric, was one of the first to champion reverse mentoring, back in 1999 when an employee in her 20s taught him how to surf the web. Now young mentors are teaching their mentees about Twitter and Facebook.

More recently Philip Clarke, CEO of Tesco started meeting 28-year-old Paul Wilkinson from the British supermarket’s technology research and development division every month. During their time together the junior employee teaches his boss everything he knows about digital devices and channels and together they discuss how their customers will want to interact in the future. At the advertising and marketing communications group, Ogilvy & Mathers, young mentors taught their MD how to jazz up his Twitter posts, which had a reputation for being “very boring”. Cisco Systems, Deloitte, PwC and Hewlett Packard are just a few of the other big names that are adopting reverse mentoring programs.

But this is definitely a two-way relationship: not only does it give those senior staff members a chance to get up to speed and stay up to speed with evolving technologies, it is also hugely beneficial to the junior mentors too. It gives them a chance to find out how the business works, develop relationships with key people and get an insight into levels of business they wouldn’t normally see. Senior staff can provide advice and support in their careers and offer them tips and connections.

It is also an opportunity to share views on flexible or unconventional working hours or locations in a non-confrontational environment. Businesses that offer reverse mentoring are noticing an increase in the retention rate of their more junior staff as the program promotes loyalty and trust and junior staff feel valued, respected and heard. Some senior staff members may bristle at the thought of being mentored by someone younger than them and it is important that they do not feel patronised.

However, in the face of extinction a small change to the status quo may not be such a bad thing.

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