Mental Health, Meme Culture, and Mission in Life: How Reverse Mentoring Connects a Multi-Generation Workplace  

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We’ve heard and seen those news headlines on Gen Z talent reshaping the workplace. Equally frequent are the stories, hearsay, and worst of all, stereotypes about these Gen Z employees that seem to be so ubiquitous in our waking life (looking at you, TikTok). 

That said, that presumption is not without grounds. Managers across companies do face challenges working with younger colleagues, and we also find it equally difficult to hire and retain Gen Z workers.  

But these intergenerational tensions are nothing new. Consider how Gen Xers were often associated with a “slacker” attitude during their 20s, and how millennials were characterized as the “me” generation. Fast forward to 2024, I think most of us have integrated and adjusted well enough to the workplace. 

I think it’s a good thing that Gen Z is currently under the spotlight, because this means that companies, including Schneider Electric, are trying to understand this new talent pool, which is not only brilliant and creative but also the most sustainable generation. However, just like every other generation that came before them, they are often misunderstood. 

And so, “understanding” should be the number one keyword to stand by in 2024. At Schneider Electric, we take this seriously—we strive to understand the unique motivations, challenges, and aspirations of everyone so that everyone, regardless of generations, can seamlessly work together to create impact to the world. 

Cue reverse mentoring program

A uniquely Schneider Electric approach to bridge the generation gap, which has been running for nearly two years in Vietnam.  

This groundbreaking concept flips the conventional mentorship dynamic, and this is what Schneider Electric does to foster collaboration, diversity of thought, and professional growth. 

Reverse mentoring in action

Breaking Down Barriers and Driving Adaptation 

It was a novel idea for everyone in Vietnam when reverse mentoring was first initiated in 2022. After all, reverse mentoring flips the traditional mentoring dynamic on its head.  

Instead of senior employees mentoring junior colleagues, reverse mentoring pairs younger, less experienced employees with more seasoned professionals. What kind of themes do the Gen Z employees need to talk about, and how would the senior members react to that? 

But it is precisely that openness and flexibility that we want to encourage through the program. We let the Gen Z mentors to come up with their choice of topics. Because we believe that this program is the catalyst for embracing diverse perspectives and harnessing the collective wisdom of all employees. And yes, that includes our youngest members in the company! 

The result?

Themes ranging from social media trends, how meme came about, AI software and technologies, LGBTQ+ affairs, and all the way to debates on life purpose and employee retention emerged as some of the topics covered in the 3-month program.  

“Being paired with young and dynamic mentors who embody the curious spirit has provided me a fresh perspective on various aspects on Generation Z,” says Do Nguyen Hung, Vice President of Power Products, one of the lucky few who had the chance to be paired up with a Gen-Z mentor.  

To him, this innovative approach facilitates a two-way exchange of knowledge, with mentors sharing their expertise in areas that matter to them. While mentors listen attentively and provide their thoughts based on their extensive experience, while ultimately stay on top of the latest technological trends, tools, and evolving customer expectations. 

In turn, this creates an environment where individuals from all backgrounds and experience levels at Schneider Electric can learn from one another, thus strengthening our culture of inclusivity and collaboration. 

Nurturing Talent and Organizational Culture 

“I was so worried of being paired up with someone so high up in the board. Excited, but I can’t believe I had the chance to impart something to him!”  

That’s just a few small bits of what Nhu Nguyen Thi Quynh, HR Generalist, recollected when she was paired with Do to mentor him on all sorts of “Gen Z things”. 

What she thought was out of her reach due to her role as a Schneider Graduate Program Associate back then, through reverse mentoring, she had the chance to lead and share what life is like through the eyes of a Gen Z-er.  

“I think it’s the feeling of pride that I’m experiencing. I’m proud to play a role in shaping the future of Schneider Electric Vietnam by fostering a culture of Curiosity and Mastery that encourages continuous learning through intergenerational conversations. Here, the energy of youth and the wisdom of experience harmoniously come together to lead the way forward. All happening with an open mind and without any presumptions attributed to us,” she continues. 

Nhu now serves as the manager of reverse mentoring. She is meticulously planning the third iteration of the program, including brainstorming the next mind-blowing topics to cover with the mentees. 

One thing is clear to her. Reverse mentoring at Schneider Electric not only benefits the senior employees but also provides unique growth opportunities for younger talent. The anxiety she felt back then paved the way for exposure to high-level decision-making. To opportunities to develop her leadership skills, and expand her professional networks. 

It is this experience that Nhu wanted to pass on the next generation of young people at Schneider Electric. 

One of the topics covered in the program was directly presented to senior members in the team. 

Looking Ahead 

Reverse mentoring is just one example our commitment to engage and nurture our young members. They are all unique individuals with distinct strengths, aspirations, and capacity to contribute. 

By understanding and harnessing the collective knowledge and expertise of employees at all career stages, Schneider Electric paves the way for sustained success in this ever-changing world. I personally think this is one of the things that sets Schneider Electric apart—it makes me proudly say that Schneider Electric is truly deserving of its “Best Workplace” title from Great Place to Work

Now, I’m left wondering in excitement on the future topics that will be covered by our early career professionals. 

Perhaps you can be the one to share thrilling topics with us? Let’s join our Talent Pool and explore your career opportunities with us. 

About the author

Author Profile

Cap Thi Minh Trang, HR Director, Schneider Electric Vietnam & Cambodia

With 19 years of working experiences, she has always played critical Human Resources Management roles in various types of organizations.  Aside from her HR professional work, Trang is also an owner of Capdesign. This is her own fashion brand targeting professional working women. This expertise has made her become a professional lecturer on Dress Code at John Robert Powers Vietnam since 2016. 

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