Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Reverse Mentoring

Reverse mentoring refers to an opportunity in which senior members of an organization are paired up with younger associates in an attempt to exchange knowledge similar to a mentoring session but with the purpose of education the senior leaders in topics that younger employees handle with expertise. The use of reverse mentoring is something that is becoming very popular lately simply because mentoring, in general, is being utilized a lot more by companies, therefore it is only natural than when a proper mentorship is put in place, the exchange exists as a two-way street. Another reason why reverse mentoring is so popular has to do with the new era of technology in which we live today. New advances have made so that while our world is hyper-connected and doing business has become easier and more convenient than ever before, we also have to deal with a steep learning curve that sometimes is beyond people who are not used to this new technology and who did not grow up in an environment in which using computers and the internet is a commonality.

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In today’s article here at Suzzanne Uhland’s Blog, we want to talk about what you need to have in mind in order to take advantage of reverse mentoring and how a program should be put together so that reverse mentoring can have the strongest possible impact in the organization and the individuals involved with mentorships.

In order to get started, you have to make exhaustive research as to what is the purpose of the program and ensure you are solving a need you have, not just doing it for the sake of doing it. It is easy to fall on a situation in which the reverse mentoring is being done just so junior employees feel like they are adding something to the mentoring relationship but just for the sake of feeling like they are being constructive. That would be the wrong way of going about reverse mentoring as the benefits must be tangible and must truly be beneficial for the company because they are attending a need, not just a desire for indulgence.

Social media and understanding the ins and outs of these phenomena is a great example of a need that most companies have when it comes to training their most senior members. It is not a secret that senior leaders are not too familiar with the benefits of social media being used as a marketing tool and as a way of gathering useful information from customers. It is helpful to aid them in moving away from thinking that social media is something for younger people to waste their time and see it for the amazing asset that it can become when being used properly.

The first meeting is the perfect moment to set goals and to start coming up with a strategy on how to accomplish those goals. Reverse mentoring should be a lot more informal and structure should be best kept at a minimum. At the beginning, the sessions should be spaced a couple of weeks in between to establish rapport and then to identify some of the needs of the particular pairing. Remember that using technology to communicate like social media, texting and other personal devices is a great way to change the whole setting of the mentoring sessions and at the same time immerse the participants on the type of environment they need to learn to utilize.

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Reverse mentoring is something that can grow in a very organic way and most of the time the best relationships end up forming on their own. However, this doesn’t mean that the company shouldn’t worry about strategies to help nurture the partnership and help them find the best environment in which to further advance. It is important to give the program the importance that it deserves and to encourage those in it to actively participate and those who are not members yet, to join.

Help members find compatible partners that are not just versed in the areas that are key to the success of the program, but also who have personalities that can further stimulate good dialogue and help those involved open up to their peer so they can grow together. It is important to identify those junior members of the organization that have potential to become tomorrow’s leaders. These individuals would be already cultivating a strong relationship with the people they will call colleagues later on and also with those whom they will work with side to side making the company more competitive, the workplace safer and the organization thrives.

Last but not least, always be open to feedback and criticism. These types of programs are not common and they are in a very experimental phase in most companies, so understand the importance of learning from mistakes and adjusting the course of the mission as you go along.

* Featured Image courtesy of Gratisography at Pexels.com

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What is Reverse Mentoring and why is it important?

Reverse Mentoring  is when an older executive is paired with a younger employee and the second one is in charge of mentor the first one in topics such as technology, social media, current trends, among others.  It is very common to rely on technology and Reverse Mentoring ends up to be seen as a way to up to date old employees in the technology field since it is very common that younger employees are deeply integrated with computers and the Web.  

The definition for Reverse Mentoring provided by Techopedia says that:

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“The idea that senior executives could stand to learn a thing or two from new employees goes against traditional workplace practices, where most more experienced workers often provide the most input, make decisions and provide mentorship to newer employees with less experience. However, the fast-moving developments in technology and trends has reversed this logic in some offices, where older workers may have experience and insight, but lack strong skills in newer technologies.”

Hence, it can be said that younger employees help older senior executives to develop skills required to foster in technology. And, it is not for free. There are some skills that senior executive need to develop or learn in order to use better tools offered in the web.

Nevertheless, some executives feel insulted by the idea of being mentored by a new employee that is much younger than them. But, they after a while stop thinking in that way since younger employees also want to learn more about their mentees. And, communication improves overall as well as collaboration in the company.

The spread of Reverse Mentoring is usually credited to the former CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch. It was in the 1990’s when he realized that GE managers had much to learn about internet and the tools there offered. So that, he as well as other top executives took a reverse mentoring. It was not for free that he was chosen “The CEO of XX Century”. In fact, he raised his company’s value 4000% and placed it as one of the most important companies in the world.

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Jack Welch noticed something that other people might ignore. In the common believes, people think that the longer they work, the less they need to learn. And, this make them beign so wrong.  Contrary, the longer they work for a company, the most they need to learn what is new on technology, communications, politics. For instance, politics they can be up to date reading newspapers, magazines and the complete sources of information there are on internet. However, skills that are more common on young people are not found at any place. It is by practice when they learn how to deal with new apps for example. Furthermore, young employees probably ignora a lot of things that CEOs know but they do know how to deal with technology. In this case, both of them learn something from each other.

The Reverse Mentoring program has emerged to be a very good option for companies. For instance, they do not need to hire someone only for that purpose, and expose their confidential information. Also, the young employee could learn a lot from the CEO and also, the mentor could be the communication between the top employees and the regular employees. If there is any problem top-down, the mentor (the younger employee) will be the primary source of information and this is how solutions could be more effective.

Why forming a Reverse Mentoring relationship could benefit the company?

Because Reverse Mentoring can bridge the gap between generations in the workforce (born between 1946-1964), generation X (born between 1965-1976), generation Y (born between 1977 and 1998). Since they have experienced different socio-cultural situations, they have different tenets, mindsets, attitudes, and ethics.  In this manner, Reverse Mentoring led to eliminate prejudices and stereotypes inside the company.  All around will think about the teamwork as a whole and not as a different kinds of generations grouped to do the same thing.

It is important that senior team member not believe that their younger mentors do not have value knowledge to share with them, and for that reason they will not be opened to receive what their mentors have to share. Actually, if both parts agree to give mutual feedback about the process, this will enhance the mentor and the mentee to do their best.