The concept of mentoring is not a new one. Plenty of businesses have embraced mentoring as part of their employee engagement program, however, only a handful are proactively adopting or implementing reverse mentoring.

Reverse mentoring can be hugely beneficial for companies who want to adapt to the modern business environment. It can promote workplace diversity, encourage innovative thinking and enhance collaboration, which is why the concept is gaining momentum with companies like Target, Cisco, and KPMG joining the bandwagon.

So what exactly is reverse mentoring and how can it benefit your organisation?

What is reverse mentoring?

Reverse mentoring is exactly that: a mentoring program where the roles are flipped. In traditional mentoring programs, executives and leaders work with employees to provide professional guidance and support. With reverse mentoring, younger generations provide senior staff with insight and knowledge into current trends and technology, and a fresh perspective on business operations and challenges.

What are key reverse mentoring benefits?

  • Close the knowledge gap. With the rise of social media, changing consumer habits and a never-ending stream of tech developments, many business leaders and executives are faced with the challenge of knowing how to use new technologies, and understanding the mindset of younger generations in the workplace. Through reverse mentoring, younger employees can provide real insights into things like social media, digital trends and company culture, while older employees can also give junior team members an insight into business practices and terminology from their years of experience.
  • Encourages new ways of looking at things. Through reverse mentoring, both parties can gain a new perspective when it comes to approaching business challenges or adapting company policies and processes. Reverse mentoring brings together the energy and fresh outlook of the younger colleague with the experience of the more senior colleague, for more innovative business practices and solutions.
  • Connect different generations in the workplace. Employees tend to communicate most with those at a similar age or experience level, or with those who are directly in their team. Reverse mentoring helps encourage cross-department and cross-generational communication and collaboration, leading to a more positive work environment.

How to successfully launch a reverse mentoring program

One of the easiest ways to introduce reverse mentoring into your workplace is to officially add it to your existing mentoring program. When it comes to selecting and matching up mentors and mentees, choose employees across generations who offer different skill sets.

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For example, one can be an older executive with leadership experience, while the other can be a younger programmer or marketing assistant who has their finger on the pulse of the latest tech trends.

In addition, if you’re launching a reverse mentoring program in your workplace, there are a few things to take into account in order to ensure it’s successful for everyone involved:

  • Ensure that the match-up offers mutual benefits. While reverse mentoring can be a great way to get older employees up to speed with today’s work environment, it’s important to make sure the younger employee is also gaining something from the program, whether it’s industry knowledge or building their professional skills.
  • Offer a framework and a set time frame for the program. Although mentor-mentee relationships can continue after the formal program ends, having a defined starting point, end point, and program goals can provide employees with a clear structure and purpose. Work together with mentors and mentees during a kick-off workshop, where everyone can discuss their expectations and align on the objectives and follow-up sessions afterwards.
  • Choose meeting and follow-up times that work for both parties. Different employees have different work schedules, particularly when there’s a significant age difference, and the mentor and mentee should take time at the beginning of the program to schedule regular meetings that align with both employees’ lifestyles and work habits.
  • Look beyond just age. Reverse mentoring is typically seen as an initiative to connect younger staff with older staff. However, reverse mentoring isn’t just limited to age – companies are also using reverse mentoring to bring together employees from different backgrounds, departments, socio-economic statuses, genders, and more. By encouraging more dialogue between employees, companies can promote diversity in the workplace and build a more positive company culture.
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