The Next Gen Wants a Seat at Your Table: Try Reverse Mentoring

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Release date: 2/18/2020

The Next Gen Wants a Seat at Your Table: Try Reverse Mentoring
by Mark Boada

The key factor that divides generations is familiarity with new digital technology. Unlike older generations, millennials and Gen Z are digital natives who understand technology intuitively.

Business Leader predicts that this year the workforce will be composed primarily of Gen X (35%) and millennials (35%), with Boomers making up only 6% of the overall workforce. So what can you do if you as a fleet manager find yourself lost in cyberspace and your younger employees are light-years ahead of you technology-wise? How are you supposed to take the lead in adopting emerging digital technologies like artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and virtual and augmented reality in fleet operations when the very terms might leave you wondering what planet you’re living on?

One answer is to engage in reverse-mentoring. In this case, your younger tech-savvy employees are the mentors to older, more experienced professionals. These young professionals are eager to share their expertise and knowledge; they want a seat at your table and to have a voice in the conversation. Reverse mentoring can bridge the generation gap between older and younger employees and create understanding across demographics.

Reverse mentoring isn’t a new concept. The first known practitioner was GE’s legendary CEO Jack Welch back in 1999.

Today, a leading corporate user of the technique is the global insurer and asset manager AXA Equitable. Here are the key elements of their program:

• Senior managers and executives are paired up with a younger mentor for six one-hour sessions.
• The first session is designed to allow the mentee to express what they’re interested in learning, and the mentor uses that information to customize content for future sessions.
• Each subsequent session is devoted to a hands-on introduction to each application or technology, using a laptop, tablet, and/or mobile phone.
• Mentees then take that new knowledge to find ways to apply it to their departmental operations.

AXA, which launched its program in 2014, reports that its mentors have covered more than 400 activities, with a none-too-shabby 97% satisfaction rate.

Mark Boada is a longtime fleet industry journalist and serves as Executive Editor at Fleet Management Weekly.