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Employee Mentoring

Reverse Mentoring to Fill The Generation Gap: A Comprehensive Guide

  • Omer Usanmaz
  • July 4 2023

Mentoring has been found to boost personal and professional development, with both the mentored individual and the mentor benefiting much from the contact. In 1999, Jack Welch, the former Chief executive of General Electric, suggested the idea of reverse mentoring by pairing 500 of his senior executives with younger employees to ensure that everyone in the firm could understand how to use the web, thus modeling reverse mentoring. The idea has expanded, with many organizations and leaders testing it. However, it is still a relatively new notion in most organizations as a practice.

Mentoring in the workplace has shown to be beneficial to businesses in recent years, not just for their employees but also for the firm itself. Formal mentoring programs are becoming increasingly popular to develop skills, share information, break down silos, and promote diversity and inclusion. Mentoring traditionally entails a more senior, experienced person guiding junior people and assisting them in developing skills, sharing their experiences and learnings, introducing them to appropriate networking, and providing general support and encouragement. However, there are several various forms of mentorship, and some are more suited to particular workplace needs than others.

Reverse mentoring is among the types of mentorship. As both the mentee and the mentor benefit from this transaction, it is a two-way path. It can change people's life by widening their ideas, giving them confidence, and allowing them to try new experiences. Reverse mentorship is a fantastic way to talk about generation, gender and technology skills gaps as well as skills gaps, which helps an organization become more diverse and inclusive. It can be an effective strategy, especially as early-career employees or those with a millennial mindset are more likely to possess fresh ideas, desired talents, and an all-embracing attitude.

A senior CEO who isn't very tech-savvy but is ready to be mentored by a digital native can pick up new technical abilities, increasing productivity and exploiting data-driven insights in decision-making. Many senior executives also believe that working closely with younger employees has other benefits, such as being motivated or stimulated by their colleagues' passion and innovative thinking.

What Is Reverse Mentoring And How Does It Work?

Reverse mentorship is a new take on the traditional exchange of knowledge and experience. It allows young professionals to connect with more experienced mentors in order for them to learn about working life, industry practices, or even specific sectors like law; all while being able to provide their own input into those discussions if needed. The goal of reverse mentoring in many businesses is to provide executives with a new perspective on emerging trends in technology or the future of work.

The technique recognizes that both sides of a mentoring relationship have skill gaps and chances to improve and that turning the standard structure on its head may be highly helpful for both parties. Reverse mentoring also challenges the notion that mentoring is elitist because it is a formal connection for skill exchange and professional growth, rather than a senior person taking someone under their wing.

What Is The Importance of Reverse Mentoring?

Reverse mentorship is becoming more popular to include employees, particularly Millennials, in the process. It gives younger workers the impression of being members of the mentoring process. Reverse mentorship provides several personal and professional benefits, and it may have a long-term influence on a company. Companies like KPMG, General Electric, and Fidelity have had success with reverse mentorship programs in various business areas. They have it all, from diversity programs to engaging and training its graduate staff.

Pershing's, for example, saw a 97 percent retention rate of its younger team after implementing a reverse mentorship program. With 49% of millennials admitting that if given a chance, they would quit their employment in the next two years, retention is a significant issue for many firms. As a result, reverse mentoring may be a viable option. Reverse mentoring is a great technique to establish personal relationships and community inside a company, in addition to its organizational benefits.

Benefits of Reverse Mentoring?

In today's ever-changing business landscape, business leaders are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to stay ahead of the competition. Many organizations are turning to reverse mentoring as a way to gain an edge. The benefits are as follows.

  • Development of leadership skills

Learning is a two-way street, even if the purpose of your reverse mentorship program is for younger staff to educate older employees. Improved communication skills, for example, can help millennials become better future leaders.

  • Increase the diversity of your workforce

Mentorships, especially reverse mentoring, require learning to recognize and appreciate differences. Patrice Gordon, a DE&I executive coach, conducted a TedTalk regarding reverse mentoring and how it could be a powerful tool for encouraging a diversified workforce and managerial support.

  • Higher retention of employees

Younger workers, particularly Millennials, are being retained. According to Harvard Business Review research, reverse mentoring satisfies Millennials' demand for job recognition.

  • Embracing trending technologies

You should strengthen the digital skills of employees. Younger employees must educate senior CEOs about understanding and incorporating technology into firms. While many more senior employees have learned how to use social media, Millennials have a far better instinctive awareness of platforms and how to use them.

Reverse Mentoring's Applications

Workplace mentoring programs can promote various business impact areas or accomplish specific business goals. Reverse mentoring may be employed in multiple, even software engineering ways inside organizations, and it can sometimes be even more effective than standard mentoring.

The following are some uses of reverse mentoring:

  • Bridging the generational gap:

It's difficult to bridge the generational divide in a corporation. Each year's graduation scheme intake will welcome people into an organization that runs quite differently than it did when employees who had worked there for decades first arrived, making it difficult to relate to one another. There may be a gap between older and younger personnel, especially with digital transformation and the speed at which firms change and expand.

Reverse mentoring is an excellent technique to break down generational barriers by providing people who have long worked in the sector with a fresh perspective on how things are done and the industry as a whole. New hires might also bring new ideas to the table.

  • Inclusion:

A workplace that treats all employees equitably and prioritizes inclusion initiatives is a welcoming one. It is an environment where advancement opportunities are apparent to everybody, and decision-making groups are diverse. While role models are essential in the workplace, individuals from minority groups may find it challenging to strive for leadership roles if they can not see anyone who resembles them in such positions. This lack of employee diversity may prevent companies raise future company leaders from diverse backgrounds.

It may also be difficult for executives to fully comprehend and recognize the structural and cultural hurdles that influence specific individuals if they are not directly exposed to their experiences. Reverse mentorship can be quite beneficial in this situation. Reverse mentors from underrepresented groups and mentees in senior management may successfully share viewpoints, learn from one another, and strive toward a more inclusive workplace culture by mentoring pairs of senior leadership and millennial talent.

  • Development of leadership:

Finally, reverse mentoring is a highly successful technique to help junior employees build leadership abilities. By entrusting new hires and grads with the added duty of mentoring, they will improve their communication skills, develop empathy, acquire the art of asking excellent questions, and become more self-aware – all of which are essential leadership abilities.

As their friendship develops, the mentor will undoubtedly learn a lot from their mentee. For instance, let’s assume that a junior colleague is mentoring senior colleagues or a senior leader who has worked for the firm for a long time. In that case, they may also serve as a role model, encouraging them to pursue leadership positions within the organization. As a result, running a reverse mentorship program to prepare future leaders can also be a positive experience.

  • Development of digital skills:

Keeping up with technological breakthroughs and abilities in today's fast-paced modern environment can be challenging. Among the most technologically literate workforce members, even software engineers require a significant amount of reading, training, and mentorship to stay current with new technology. Learning about social networking, cloud-based computing, and other recent digital skills might be intimidating for individuals of a previous generation.

Setting up A Reverse Mentorship Program

Reverse mentoring is, in theory, a low-risk, high-reward undertaking. That is generally true only if the reverse mentoring connections are established and maintained in an organized manner. The following pointers should assist you in getting started.

1. Establish Guidelines:

First and foremost, define the parameters for any mentoring connections that will arise from your successful reverse mentoring program. Maybe you want each pair to focus on teaching the executive how to use social media, or perhaps you want them to focus on recognizing and exploiting a Millennial perspective on work-related issues. Help your mentees and mentors understand what they're being asked to accomplish, no matter what the program's goal is so that they can start their connection with a shared understanding of why they're meeting.

Formalizing the main objective procedure in a reverse mentoring relationship is a beautiful concept. Note down everything on a sheet and take account of how far you've come toward your goals. Regardless of whether you're utilizing a qualitative or quantitative measuring the reverse mentoring strategy, this will maintain the reverse mentoring connection well-targeted and quantifiable (or both).

2. Accept Feedback:

In a McKinsey Quarterly piece,(1) Harvard Business School professor Robert S. Kaplan said that the more senior a leader grows, the more challenging it is to obtain criticism. As a result, they understand that receiving feedback effectively as an executive is critical for personal and organizational success.

Many CEOs are accustomed to giving orders but not to receiving feedback. It's much more complicated if the critique comes from a lower-level employee. As a mentoring project coordinator, you must help your executive mentees prepare for and obtain feedback from their more junior supervisors. The mentorship relationship might be doomed from the start if you don't have this mentality.

3. Provide Feedback about The Mentorship Relationship in Reverse:

In a similar vein, it may be difficult, if not impossible, for the younger mentor to provide feedback to their mentee (e.g., their CEO, VP, or boss's boss's boss). Those concerns aren't entirely unjustified. Workplace retaliation is the most common form of a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) (55.8 percent of all complaints in 2020). No one desires to make the wrong decision or make a bad image in the eyes of someone in charge who has the power to make their work-life a living nightmare or terminate them. The goal of reverse mentoring, on the other hand, is for the younger mentor to help the senior mentee discover something valuable.

However, the purpose of reverse mentoring is for the junior mentor to assist the older mentee in learning something new. Giving feedback is a necessary part of that learning process. As the mentoring program administrator, you should ensure that your mentees are aware of the mentoring position they will be assigned and the responsibilities they will be required to do. A brief training session about how to deliver constructive criticism and guarantees that they are authorized and encouraged to provide reviews to their executive-level mentee could benefit these incoming mentors.

4. Establish A Trustworthy Friendship:

Trust is earned through respect. Mentees and mentors gain confidence in each other when they believe the best in them and know they are open to accepting or offering criticism, learning from or teaching their partner, and behaving with the best intentions. This trust is challenging to come by, but a mentoring relationship must function.

Without some sense of vulnerability on both sides, trust in a mentoring relationship is challenging to achieve. Mentors and mentees must be prepared to let down some of their walls and apprehensions about the connection for faith to be formed.

5. Listen with An Open Mind:

While this is connected to receiving feedback, the principle of listening with a curious attitude applies to both mentors and mentees. It will be easier for mentors and mentees who trust one another implicitly to listen without criticizing. They will find sharing and comprehending data simpler without knocking their partners.

This idea will also assist them in being fully involved in the discussion, rather than merely half-listening while formulating their answer to what their partner has to say. Of course, if you're not paying close attention, it's tough to listen with an open mind. Mentors and mentees who want to establish a reverse mentoring relationship successfully must rehearse active listening techniques before getting started.

As the administrator of a mentoring program, you may help mentees and mentors develop this skill by providing them with resources and approaches that they can use in their interactions to promote and encourage open and active listening. You should also think about delivering functional listening skills.

6. Be Genuine:

Authenticity, transparency, and trust go hand in hand. When people have faith in their mentoring partners, they can be more open and honest. They deepen that trust by showing their actual selves by becoming more real and sincere. It's a cyclical cycle that fosters strong relationships between individuals, and mentorship administrators should encourage it.

Empower your mentees and mentors to be their authentic selves while working toward the mentoring relationship's ambitions, including dealing with obstacles or losses. When they present themselves genuinely, they establish a stronger bond and foundation for their mentoring relationship and a better mentoring engagement for themselves and their partners.

7. Determine Your Objectives:

Most mentoring relationships are centered on the mentee's objectives, which they desire to set and work toward achieving. In reverse mentoring, mentors must acknowledge that the goals are acceptable for the partnership, which could be challenging for junior mentors. They may not feel qualified or powerful enough to speak up about the executive mentee's objectives.

Some mentoring program managers set overarching project objectives for the couples, enabling the executive to comprehend technological advances or connect more productively with the workforce through social media. Having a program objective as the foundation for your connection will assist your mentees and mentors have a clear focus on what they want to accomplish.

8. Hold Confidence And Be Patient:

You must establish a mentoring relationship basis on trust, which requires defining boundaries with one another and keeping confidential information secret. Without it, mentees and mentors won't be able to be open, honest, vulnerable, and so on, which is essential for getting the most out of mentoring.

When it comes to what information is disclosed and expected to be kept secret, executive mentees must be careful not to cross any lines with their mentors. They must avoid putting their mentors in uncomfortable circumstances. Junior mentors must also ensure that confidentiality is respected and that information is not shared with individuals outside the mentoring relationship.

A Reverse Mentoring Program Can Make a Big Difference

The free environment for knowledge sharing is one of the most significant advantages of reverse mentoring. Many senior executives may benefit from some mentorship, and plenty of more junior staff are prepared to share what they know. Your reverse mentorship program may be a pleasant experience for all involved if you assist your participants in understanding what is expected of them, what the program's purpose is, and the relationship's emphasis. Some skills to use to manage their interactions.

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