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Reverse Mentorship - Learning from the next generation

Reverse Mentorship

Have you ever found yourself secretly in awe of the tech wizardry of your younger colleagues, wondering how they effortlessly navigate the digital realm?

Not only that: they generally seem more at ease with embracing creativity and risk in the workplace.

Which leads to the next question: What’s stopping you from asking how they do it, so you can learn, too?

Here’s what’s putting the brakes on: the social and cultural norms of expecting the less seasoned to look up to the more experienced.

The fact is, we’re missing out on incredibly valuable knowledge by shying away from mentorship opportunities in the workplace, merely based on someone’s age. What’s the point being a fuddy-duddy, when you can easily tap into ways to make your work better and faster?

That’s where the concept of Reverse Mentorship comes in. Reverse Mentorship is the art of seasoned professionals assimilating skills from their younger counterparts. This transformative practice not only challenges age-old norms, but also brings forth a wealth of knowledge and innovative approaches that can redefine the way more experienced professionals approach their work.

In this article, we’ll share six compelling reasons why more experienced professionals can tremendously benefit from the reverse mentorship of Gen Z professionals (AKA zoomers).

#1 Tech-Savvy Prowess

It’s undeniable: Digital natives have grown up in an era dominated by technology. Their innate ability to navigate and leverage the latest digital tools is just that - native. Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials, while by no means lacking in ability, can tap into this more recent expertise to stay updated on emerging technologies, digital trends, and innovative solutions. In fact, embracing this reverse mentorship in the workplace can bridge the technological gap, empowering the rest of us to adapt to the fast-paced digital landscape.

Bethany, a Marketing Manager, was hired for her wealth of expertise and marketing software knowledge. But there was one tool that a lot of her younger colleagues were using that she hadn’t taken the leap into yet: AI chatbots like ChatGPT and Google Bard. She loved new programs, but she struggled to get her head around the idea of AI chatbots. By engaging in reverse mentorship with a Gen Z colleague who was happy to teach her, Bethany not only picked it up quickly, but realized that AI chatbots aren’t as complicated as she’d assumed. Learning about these tools led to greater productivity across the department, as she was no longer quick to reject any content generated by it.

#2 Fresh Perspectives on Diversity and Inclusion

Zoomers are known for their more progressive attitudes toward diversity and inclusion. Engaging in reverse mentorship provides an opportunity for their more seasoned colleagues to gain valuable insights into the evolving understanding of workplace diversity. Gen Z professionals often bring a fresh perspective on inclusivity, thanks to the shifting cultural and social media environment they grew up in. Their approach challenges traditional norms and fosters a more tolerant and varied work environment.

Jon, an HR Manager at a sizeable manufacturing company, attended a DEI conference in a nearby city. During a break between presentations, he struck up a conversation with two Gen Z HR attendees over coffee. They began chatting about the diversity initiatives within their respective companies. The two younger attendees worked for a top-tier trend tech company, where DEI forms part of their core values. The younger professionals provided valuable insights into their practices and policies, highlighting the importance of intersectionality and representation. Jon picked up some great ideas through this discussion. Within three months, this collaboration led to the research, design and implementation of much more inclusive DEI policies and initiatives at his workplace, particularly when it came to hiring.

#3 Adapting to Rapid Change

The Gen Z cohort has experienced unprecedented global changes, from major economic shifts to a global pandemic. Their ability to adapt quickly and remain resilient in the face of uncertainty can serve as a valuable example. Reverse mentorship allows seasoned leaders to discover, understand, and incorporate smarter strategies for navigating change, better supporting a workplace culture that thrives despite constant economic social evolutions.

Aaron was a Project Manager who rose through the ranks thanks to his interpersonal skills, meticulous attention to detail, and ability to see both the micro and macro. When his company was acquired by a faster-paced larger organization, Aaron struggled to adapt, especially as he was now a small fish in a large project management pool. However, instead of quitting, he engaged in stealth reverse mentorship with his mostly-Gen Z team members. By observing their practices, and probing their methodologies, Aaron became familiar with newer collaboration tools and agile project management techniques. This inspired him to pursue several certifications in contemporary project management practices and tools, and eventually led to his promotion to Team Lead.

#4 Social Media Mastery

Social media has become an integral part of both personal and professional communication. Zoomers are smoothly adept at navigating an array of social media platforms to build networks, exchange information, and create brand awareness. Through reverse mentorship, older colleagues can enhance their social media skills, similarly leveraging these platforms for professional growth, networking, and staying relevant in the digital age.

Hayley was a small business owner who had previously relied only on Facebook ads to promote her business. She observed the growing significance of newer social media platforms in brand promotion, particularly video-based content suited to platforms such as TikTok. She decided to collaborate with the Gen Z daughter of her best friend, a social media specialist. Through reverse mentorship, Hayley learned how to navigate TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube to post engaging content. Guess whose content frequently went viral after hiring that younger social media specialist?

#5 Entrepreneurial Spirit

While other generations are certainly familiar with the entrepreneurial mindset, Gen Z takes it to a whole new level. Older generations may see innovation and autonomy as risky; Gen Z see these as liberating opportunities. Adopting a more open, inquisitive mindset encourages everyone to take creative calculated risks for the benefit of the company and their own professional growth.

A traditional publishing house, faced with challenges in adapting to the digital era, took a risk and hired an ex-YouTube influencer who had subsequently branched out into content consulting. Over the course of a 6-month contract, this youthful guru taught leadership the importance of multimedia content, interactive storytelling, and community engagement. She sat in on interviews for an expanded content team, helping to find the right people to take the company’s digital presence forward. This collaboration transformed the publishing house into a dynamic digital content hub, capturing the attention of younger readers and launching its championing in the digital landscape.

#6 Life-Work Integration vs Work-Life Balance

Zoomers tend to prioritize life-work integration over the traditional work-life balance. To their more seasoned colleagues, Gen Z seems to have a less serious approach to work. But that’s not at all the case. In fact, it can be argued that Gen Z have a much healthier and more sustainable approach to their careers. By adopting a more flexible and adaptive mindset, more seasoned colleagues can also achieve greater satisfaction and well-being, ultimately improving overall productivity.

Inevitably as older colleagues got promoted or left, a finance company found itself with a large number of Gen Z employees. Over time, line managers reported frustration at these younger team members’ push for a more balanced work life. Until they observed that these Gen Z colleagues not only tended to work more efficiently that older colleagues, but were more productive, too. Through observational reverse mentorship, combined with analysing the results of an employee satisfaction survey, leadership eventually embraced flexible work hours and remote collaboration tools as a way to retain younger employees. The trend caught on with older colleagues, too. This change not only improved overall well-being, but also sets the precedent for a more employee-friendly work culture.


As we’ve seen, Reverse Mentorship is a highly collaborative method to weave together the wisdom of the seasoned with the fresher perspectives of the emerging.

And the benefits extend far beyond the immediate gains in skill acquisition. Reverse mentorship represents a way for older professionals to not only stay relevant in the fast-paced digital age, but also contribute to a more open culture that values continuous learning, diversity, and adaptability.

This intergenerational exchange is a fantastic way to unlock a future of work where innovation knows no bounds, diversity is celebrated, and success becomes a collective achievement.

Reverse mentorship is not just a trend; it’s a roadmap to a workplace that evolves, adapts, and thrives in the face of change, guided by the collaborative spirit of all its contributors.

Key takeaways

  • More seasoned employees can better navigate the digital landscape by tapping into the tech-savvy prowess of Gen Z through the practice of Reverse Mentorship
  • Reimagine workplace inclusivity by embracing fresh perspectives on diversity and inclusion offered by Gen Z professionals
  • Through reverse mentorship, cultivate adaptability by gleaning insights from Gen Z’s resilience and agility in navigating rapid changes
  • Harness the power of social media strategically by leveraging the expertise of Gen Z professionals through reverse mentorship for networking, branding, and business growth
  • Infuse innovation and risk-taking into traditional roles by learning from Gen Z’s entrepreneurial spirit
  • Prioritize work-life (or life-work) integration by adopting a flexible and adaptive work environment inspired by Gen Z professionals thanks to reverse mentorship.

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