Reverse Mentoring - Keeping the Generations Close

Posted by HR Analytics on Wednesday, October 9, 2013 Under: Org Psychology

One weekend, while hanging out with my 13 year old niece, I learned some new tips and tricks on how to operate my smart phone.  I’ve always considered myself tech-savvy and I’ve always tried to be an early adopter but as it turned out, I’m not as up-to-date as some of these younger kids are, particularly on this smart phone.  On a personal level, I’m still getting used to that feeling of learning from this little girl, my one and only niece, whom I used to babysit.  Every time we talk, our conversations are becoming so much more adult-like and I still often catch myself just mesmerized by the fact that she’s now a teenager and that she now has all kinds of stuff to teach me.  These kids just grow up way too fast.

The learning that is happening between us is now clearly becoming more two-way.  The adult is no longer the only teacher here in this relationship and the teenager has some real valuable information to share.  I think it’s time for me to open up to this bidirectional learning so that I can really benefit from whatever it is that I’m missing.  After spending time with my niece this one weekend, I actually came away with some great tricks that now allows me to maximize the features on my smartphone.  

I also realized that this here is a great example of reverse mentoring.  Mentoring doesn’t always have to come from the older and more experienced anymore.  It can go both ways and it can really be effective when used in the workplace.

Reverse mentoring has increased in popularity these last few years.  One of the primary drivers of this phenomenon is that the younger generation’s just really good with the new technology, as if they were born with a smartphone in their hand.  And for us older adults, not only do we pre-date these technologies, we’re also probably preoccupied with doing things that do not allow us to be heavily exposed to these technologies.  We’re probably doing things like supervising people or managing a company and that we just don’t have a lot of time to learn some of the nitty gritty of these new technologies.  

Besides learning new techniques on how to use my smartphone, I also realized that my 13-year-old niece and I can actually have some very interesting and meaningful conversations.  I wouldn’t want that to go away even though she has hit teenage years.  Such conversation was fun for the both of us and I thought that it was such a great way to bridge the gap between the generations.  I was just her age not too long ago but I, apparently, have yet a lot to learn about this younger generation.  

In the workplace, reverse mentoring has that potential to bring generations closer together.  It can break that ice that sometimes divide generations and really open up communication at the office.  Without reverse mentoring, we may never hear from these Millenials.  It is one of the effective ways to unlock their hidden potentials as well as keep them engaged in the work they do.

Companies can really benefit from Millenial’s knowledge and wisdom not only in the area of technology (see Buss & DuFrene, 2006) but also in having an overall understanding of the future of the workforce.  Reverse mentoring can give the managers and supervisors that opportunity to understand the Millenials’ work ethics better, as well as their motivation and their intention.  


Biss, K., DuFrene, D (2006, May). An Examination of Reverse Mentoring in the Workplace.

Business Education Digest, 15, 30-41.

In : Org Psychology 

Tags: reverse mentoring  mentoring 
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