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We hear a lot about the benefits of workplace mentorship programs. They serve to provide junior employees with the inspiration, motivation, and guidance to realize their career goals while also driving knowledge transfer, improving talent retention, and increasing workplace collaboration.
But what about reverse mentoring?
In a reverse mentoring relationship, a junior employee is paired up with someone from the senior leadership team to share their experiences, insights, and wisdom. Here are some of the benefits of such a program.
1. Provides leaders with real insights into workplace culture
It’s not uncommon for a senior leader to be branded as “out of touch.”
Perhaps they made a major business decision with seemingly no awareness of how it would impact the rest of the workforce. They might not have a good understanding of what motivates and inspires their younger employees—whether it’s social justice issues, sustainability, compensation packages, or flexible working. Or maybe they are totally unaware of the many great initiatives their junior employees are implementing.
Reverse mentoring is a great way to improve visibility across the business and for leaders to gain new perspectives, as well as providing junior employees with the recognition and rewards they crave and deserve. Senior employees are likely to connect more meaningfully with workplace culture and understand the issues that affect people at every level of the organization.
2. Meaningfully addresses issues of diversity and inclusion
It’s important that leaders approve budgets for Black History Month events or advocate for Women in Leadership. But they can’t fully understand or work to improve their employees’ day-to-day experiences without taking the time to learn directly from them.
Pairing senior leaders with a diverse range of junior employees can drive empathy and bring issues like unconscious bias to the forefront, ultimately driving better retention rates and diversifying the talent pipeline.
3. Drives technology adoption and teaches digital skills
Reverse mentoring can help close generational gaps. If an organization wants to keep up with the latest trends in technology, they ought to be listening to the youngest members of their workforce.
In many cases, millennial employees will be up to speed on technological advancements. They might have ideas on how best to use technology to revitalize their organization’s existing processes as well as driving innovation.
This extends to how an organization and its senior leaders leverage social media. For example, a junior employee with an extensive and engaged LinkedIn network could provide invaluable insights to a C-suite executive who is largely unfamiliar with the workings of social media. When an organization uses these platforms effectively, under the guidance of its resident experts, it can drive talent attraction and brand awareness.
4. Develops leadership skills
Reverse mentoring programs are built around the concept that senior leaders have a lot to learn from their junior employees.
However, one of the added benefits of such a scheme is that it allows younger workers the opportunity to develop confidence and hone their leadership and communication skills. For some, this might be their first taste of this type of responsibility—and what better way to learn than in the controlled and relatively informal environment of a mentoring relationship?
The dos and don’ts of a successful reverse mentoring program
- Educate the senior leadership team on the benefits of reverse mentoring to secure buy-in and compliance.
- Provide junior mentors with some training or a template detailing how best to structure their reverse mentoring sessions. This unique relationship will likely see both participants entering unchartered territory, and some form of guidance will be useful.
- Encourage long-term partnerships. It takes time to build trust and nurture meaningful relationships.
- Establish objectives. Is the primary purpose of this program to drive diversity and inclusion, improve retention, or for senior leaders to learn new skills?
- Mix a reverse mentoring partnership with a traditional mentoring partnership. Participants should be encouraged to focus on the task at hand to reap the greatest benefits.
- Assign pairings at random. Give some thought as to how best to match up mentors and mentees and be sure to ask both parties if they are comfortable with their pairing.
- Abandon participants once a pairing has been made. Monitor the program’s success by asking for regular feedback and keeping track of how regularly program participants are meeting up.
Image Credit: marvent / Shutterstock.com
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