We’re pleased to highlight this Human Resource Development Review author feature. To view all other author features from HRDR, click here. Below, Dr. Chaudhuri and Dr. Ghosh provide further insight on their article, “Reverse Mentoring: A Social Exchange Tool for Keeping the Boomers Engaged and Millennials Committed,” that is found in Volume 11, Issue 1 of Human Resource Development Review.
1) Please share an overview of your article with our readers. The article titled, “Reverse Mentoring: A Social Exchange Tool for Keeping the Boomers Engaged and Millennial’s Committed” takes a positive perspective whereby the HRD professionals are encouraged to capitalize on the multi-generational workforce that they are gifted with instead of whining about the challenges that it poses. The article proposes reverse mentoring as a social exchange tool which is aimed at leveraging the expertise of both generations including the boomers and millennials, by being perceptive of their different needs, value systems, and work demands. Reverse Mentoring, which is a fairly new tentacle of mentoring is an inverted type of mentoring relationship, wherein junior employees are paired with senior, seasoned, and more experienced staff. Our article offers social exchange and age identification theory as the basic theoretical underpinnings that support the framework of reverse mentoring as a two way street. The mentoring relationship thrives on the mutual exchange between two generations—senior members of an organization will acquire new learnings in the areas of technology—mobile computing, social media, cloud technology, etc.—and work-life diversity, work-life balance, latest professional trends, changing consumer preferences, and glean a more global perspective on the concepts of openness and diversity. The younger workforce will find in it an opportunity to hone their leadership skills and garner insights on organizational structure. This would eventually result in increased employee commitment and engagement for the millennials and the boomers.
2) How did you reach your interest in this topic? Being instructors at top-notch research universities, we were fortunate to interact with students of high caliber. While facilitating our courses, both of us encountered those AHA moments where our students were instrumental in helping us learn more advanced presentation skills including Prezi, Google HangOut, Google Talk, and the list could just go on. While we were fascinated with our exposure to these new tools, we were equally amazed to witness that there is so much more that these young kids can offer us with respect to new technology and their changing preferences of how they need to be taught to make it most effective for them. This led us to believe that if this relationship is formalized at a much higher level, typically in an organization setting – it can actually reap lot of benefits. Our curiosity led us to dig deeper into this new found intervention of reverse mentoring. What surprised us was the lack of literature in the area when we started researching it in 2011. While a few organizations are trying this intervention, academics have been still slow to jump into this bandwagon. Given the area was still very under researched, we found this an excellent opportunity to pursue.
3) How does your research connect with social responsibility? In 2015, the world witnessed a major demographic shift when the millennials became the largest share of the workforce. Based on the current trend, it is projected that in 2020 millennials will become half of the global workforce. With as many as 4 and in some cases 5 generations working side by side in the workplace, organizational leaders are confronted as never before with a growing generational gap, shifting expectations, as well as the constant need to stay on the cutting ‘digital’ edge. As more and more senior executives are turning to their younger colleagues for insight and guidance, traditional mentoring is gradually shifting into reverse or reciprocal mentoring turning millennials into the must-have mentors for senior leaders who want to stay ahead of the curve. Additionally, the impending retirement of the boomers is resulting in a leadership gap and possible brain drain shortage. In view of this impending labor shortage resulting from the exodus of boomers, employers must find ways to keep these workers engaged post standard retirement ages. We proffer reverse mentoring as a socially responsible intervention which would keep the boomers engaged and the millennials committed.
4) How might a future scholar implement aspects of your research in their work? The extant literature is limited in its scope when it comes to the outcomes of the reverse mentoring relationship as it is a fairly new intervention. We would encourage future scholars to find organizations that have successfully implemented reverse mentoring. As the workforce continues to age and younger generations keep on joining the workforce, we would encourage future scholars to empirically test the propositions offered in this article about the work outcomes of a multigenerational workforce.
Dr. Chaudhuri is currently a lecturer at the University of Minnesota, where she also earned her Ph.D. in human resource development. Her research interests are related to different aspects of human resource development practices and its impact on organizational outcomes including organizational commitment and employee engagement. Dr. Chaudhuri has conducted and published research studies on training outsourcing, work-life balance, cross-cultural leadership, and mentoring. Her co-authored research on ‘Reverse Mentoring’ has been quoted by the Wall Street Journal, Canadian Broadcasting, Financial Times, and one of the leading world news channels.
Dr. Ghosh is currently an associate professor at Drexel University. She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Louisville, and her MBA at the Somaiya Institute of Studies and Research in Mumbai. Dr. Ghosh’s focused research interests include mentoring and leader development, workplace incivility, and workplace learning and development. She has over twenty article publications in journals such as Advances in Developing Human Resources, the Journal of Management Development, and Career Development International.