In 1995 the analogue world was set to change radically. At this point in time, a mere 16 million people were using the internet globally. Fast forward to today and the figures are somewhere around the 4 billion mark. Jack Welch, the former GE CEO, was able to envisage how the internet would transform business. He applied his visionary thinking and put GE’s youngest employees to work by getting them to teach 500 of their top executives how to use the internet. As a result, he upskilled a generation of business people and he also popularised ‘reverse mentoring’.
Reverse mentoring is when the younger generation takes the lead role with the senior person as the mentee. It is an extremely valuable business method – especially during the times of disruption. The internet, social media and emerging technologies such as AI and Fintech, and of course, the ever changing fabric of society as a whole have been in a constant state of flux for decades and it can often be hard to keep pace with change.
Benefits for Diversity & Inclusion
As noted by Forbes; reverse mentoring can facilitate organisational goals such as increasing millennial retention, fostering inclusivity, and maintaining competitive advantage. According to a recent article by MarketWatch, reverse mentorships can help build a more inclusive workforce. 20% of millennials (ages 18 to 34) identify as LGBTQ, compared to 7% of Baby Boomers, and almost of half say that a diverse and inclusive workplace is an important factor in their job search, as well as work-life balance.
Brenda Trenowden, CFA, global chair of the influential diversity group, the 30% Club, believes it helps organisations embrace inclusion. “The CEO has to really commit to drive change. If the CEO doesn’t commit to this as a business imperative, then it is hard to see anything changing. When senior leaders become involved in reverse mentoring, and really hear first-hand about some of the challenges that the more junior people face, that will really help.” So the writing is really on the wall here.
Benefits for Client Relationships
It’s imperative for senior management to be aware of and involved in new technologies and reverse mentoring provides the opportunity to do this. While there are benefits for both the older and younger generations within the company; what is just as interesting is the potential benefit to the customer or client as they are equally technically savvy.
Reverse mentoring, which has still yet to be widely adopted, is today one of the single biggest opportunities for organisations to leverage knowledge and differentiate themselves – making themselves more attractive to customers.
There are two main reasons for this:
- An inversion of the corporate age pyramid; we are entering a new era where the majority of the workforce will be made up of technically savvy, agile individuals who are typically hierarchy-adverse.
- The speed of business transformation and impact of technology on the fundamentals of the corporate landscape is disrupting old models at an unprecedented pace.
Turning Senior Management Into Early Adopters
When it comes to technology, there is often a great fear of it among senior management. They will often shy away from group training where they might expose their lack of knowledge and experience to their tech savvy junior team members. This is damaging all round.
More positively, the new generation of talent is made up of digital natives and they will want to influence the direction of the business they are working in, but they are also happy to share their knowledge and insight. Reverse mentoring is a great way of doing this and by putting people together into face to face meetings, it’s highly effective and creates a level of understanding between generations without anyone feeling vulnerable or at a disadvantage.
In an excellent article from Microsoft, “Reverse mentoring; How millennials are becoming the new mentors”, it is great to see how reverse mentoring can benefit both individuals involved across a range of topics (“learning to better collaborate and leverage each other’s strength”). If we want to avoid the ‘male, pale and stale’ stereotype, surely the investment management industry needs to take a leaf from this book?
In conclusion, aside from technical skills and knowledge that can be passed from younger to older workers, there are significant cultural benefits that may be realised through reverse mentoring; be it in breaking down stereotypes between generations or just learning how best to communicate and engage with people who might know more than you!
Please do visit our new Mentoring section where you can create a profile and find a mentor within the AlgoMe Community.