Reverse mentoring is a management practice in which a senior employee seeks to gain business insights from a less experienced, often younger employee. As the name implies, reverse mentoring flip-flops the typical mentoring relationship in which a more experienced person guides a less experienced person.
The goal of reverse mentoring is to take advantage of the fresh perspective a newcomer offers. An often-cited reason for introducing the concept of reverse mentoring to an organization is to leverage the shopping habits and technical know-how of younger workers.
Reverse mentoring as a corporate practice is a popular alternative to hiring mentors through a third-party mentoring service. The concept is often associated with former General Electric CEO, Jack Welch. During a business trip to London in 1999, Welch learned that his global consumer finance CEO was learning about the potential power of the internet from a younger employee. When Welch returned from his trip, he formalized the idea of reverse mentoring and made it part of his own leadership practice.
Today, many companies, including Cisco, Dell, HP, UnitedHealthcare and Fidelity have developed and implemented their own reverse mentoring programs. The concept has proved to be beneficial to both the mentor and the mentee.