Mentoring: Reverse Mentoring Can Drive Companies Forward

Bloomberg Law for HR Professionals is a complete, one-stop resource, continuously updated, providing HR professionals with fast answers to a wide range of domestic and international human resources...

By Jeremy Hainsworth

May 11—Having younger workers mentor older colleagues can facilitate technological change while fostering institutional memory, human resources professionals told delegates to the PwC 29th Annual Global Forest, Paper & Packaging Industry Conference held May 4 in Vancouver.

Millennials and over-40s present specific challenges in the workforce, which if examined together can create opportunities for employee teams. While some older employees may have been with a company for decades and have deep institutional knowledge, millennials may only want to stay four or five years. Having younger employees teach current technology and older employees pass on organizational knowledge will help both groups and drive a company forward, speakers said.

Quite in line with these views, conference delegates polled by texting during the session identified the three top disruptive factors on the horizon as demographic shifts, organizational knowledge loss and leadership succession.

‘Reset Expectations'

“You have to reset expectations for your workforce,” said Janelle Aaker, people potential director for Lululemon Athletica.

Resistance to change—for example, older employees resisting technological change—can also be an opportunity for a business, Aaker said.

Fear of change can arise from an employee believing a value is being compromised, Aaker said, and the best way to handle this is to ask the employee to turn a complaint into a commitment to finding a solution.

“Are they bringing the whole team down or are they moving the whole team forward?” Aaker said. “It’s flipping it on the person.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeremy Hainsworth in Vancouver at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at

Request Bloomberg Law for HR Professionals