As the name implies, reverse mentoring flip-flops the typical mentoring relationship: Rather than an experienced employee taking an inexperienced colleague under his or her wing, the inexperienced employee acts as the mentor who provides insights into emerging technology and trends or, simply, a younger perspective, both of which may be valuable to the company. The relationship is often defined as a younger/older paradigm, but some research indicates peer-to-peer mentoring is also referred to as reverse mentoring.
An often-cited reason for introducing reverse mentoring to a business is to leverage the technical know-how of younger workers. Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch was attracted to the concept for that reason and is often credited with being a champion of reverse mentoring. In 1999 on a business trip to London, Welch learned that his global consumer finance CEO was a mentee to a younger employee who could explain some of the finer points of e-business. When Welch returned, he incorporated the idea into his own leadership practice.
Today, businesses like Cisco, HP and The Hartford have formal reverse-mentoring practices.