Gen Z and the Future of Work

Navigating the cultural shift with reverse mentoring

Written by Pia Höller

Gen Z, people born between 1997-2012, have a different outlook from previous generations in many ways, including their attitudes towards work, their values, and their expectations. And with this generation entering the workforce, it is evident that a major cultural shift is bound to happen in the way we work.

As a Gen Z’er myself, in this blog post, I want to highlight why I believe so and how Reverse Mentoring may help us navigate this shift.

I barely remember a time in my life where we did not have a PC, laptop or smartphone with internet access in the house. As a ‘digital native’, I have to sometimes remind myself that not everyone has their phone on them at all times, understands incredibly niche meme references, and follows the unofficial internet etiquette. Generally, having grown up with an essentially endless stream of information has equipped Gen Z with the skill of handling all kinds of digital tools and it has become second nature.

I remember one instance when my dad asked me to help him set up his new smartphone. When he upgraded from a key mobile phone, he was having trouble getting used to the touch screen and was tapping the screen very hard with his fingernail instead of the pad of his finger. I showed him that he didn’t need to press as hard and that he could use the pad of his finger to operate the phone. He was amazed by how responsive the screen was and how easy it was to use once he got the hang of it. This is just one moment that illustrated the way I (and people my age) interact with technology in a way that is vastly different from the way my dad did, and that there is a lot I can teach him as well.

This is the beauty of Reverse and Reciprocal Mentoring; it can help bridge the gap between Gen Z and other generations in the workforce. By pairing younger employees with more senior ones, the younger generation can share their knowledge of digital tools and platforms, as well as their values and perspectives. However, this doesn’t mean that older generations don’t have anything to teach us. Reverse, and particularly Reciprocal Mentoring, is about creating a two-way sharing of knowledge and experience that benefits both parties in the relationship. For example, I recognise I have much to learn from the older generation who can share their experience and knowledge of the industry. It’s this exchange of information that can help create a more inclusive and diverse workplace, where everyone’s skills and perspectives are valued and utilised to their full potential.

Another thing I have observed about my generation is how we seem to have a particular commitment to environmental, social, and diversity issues. Many people my age use social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter to raise awareness and mobilise support for causes they care about: Either by promoting actions that can reduce the carbon footprint of individuals and organisations or by highlighting organisations that have made efforts in pushing for greater gender and racial diversity in the workplace, as well as those that still have work to do. I could go on and on, but I think these examples do show how Gen Z’s unique skills and perspectives can benefit organisations that are committed to making positive changes in the world.

By facilitating a mutual exchange of knowledge, businesses can benefit from the unique skills of their employees, regardless of their age or experience. Gen Z’s digital proficiency and its strong commitment to issues such as sustainability, social justice, and diversity can help organisations become more adaptable to the changing needs of the world.

So, why not try Reverse/ Reciprocal Mentoring and see how it can benefit your business?

You can hear our Co-Founder, Emily Cosgrove, talk about the power of Reverse Mentoring in the video below.

By Sara Hope