It may be time to enlist a Gen Z mentor

The growing and distinct generational differences between older and younger employees may signal that building bi-directional mentorships could help older employees get on board with new trends and ideas, and start closing the generational gap, James Heskett, PhD, posited in a March 1 Harvard Business Review working knowledge commentary. 

Reverse mentoring would force older executives to be vulnerable and invest time and effort into forming relationships with younger, more junior employees. In return for their investment, they stand to gain knowledge about what young people care about, which technology and trends are important, and how young people feel about company strategy and direction.

After a realization that the company wasn't making the most of new technology, former GE CEO Jack Welch suggested to his colleagues that they all find employees under 25 years old to learn to navigate the tech side of the business. This method could be used by more older executives, Dr. Heskett suggested. 

While reverse mentoring does occur generally, it often happens in a spontaneous and unstructured way. Dr. Heskett asked why there are not more established programs of reverse mentoring, asking whether the structured programs take too much time or instead whether older executives are unwilling to be vulnerable.

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