Reverse Mentoring: How Can it Help?

Reverse Mentoring / rəˈvərs ˈmen-ˌtȯr -ɪŋ/ 

An initiative in which older executives are paired with and mentored by younger employees on topics such as technology, social media, and current trends

Mentoring within a company is a key element that will drive success for the company and increase knowledge among employees. Companies have formal and informal methods of mentoring, whether it is an established training program or a contact that a new employee can seek answers. Reverse mentoring is an initiative that you can incorporate into your already developed mentoring programs.

But with the increase in technology, social efforts, and new trends in industries, a new twist on mentoring has been introduced in the workplace. Enter in reverse mentoring.

Why is it Beneficial?

  • It helps close the knowledge gap between generations. As an example, older generations may not have as much knowledge about technology or social media. A younger employee can guide and teach an older employee so that they have a better understanding of the topic. The same goes for younger employees that can learn about industry practices and business tactics.
  • It empowers younger employees and teaches them to become leaders within the company. By encouraging them to teach older generations they will learn the skills to be a better leader and interact with a variety of people.
  • It will bring generations together within the workplace. When you pair a young employee with a seasoned executive, they have the ability to build a relationship that can last. If a relationship is built, the line of communication will remain open long after the mentorship has ended.

What Will Make it Successful?

  • Identify good potential partners. An effective partnership needs good chemistry between both participants. You shouldn’t pair two people together just because one is a senior employee and one is younger. Each partner needs to be willing to build a relationship with the other.
  • Set goals. Once partners are chosen for the mentorship, they should sit down and define clear goals. Make sure they are aligned and that you are both committed to achieving these goals through the mentor program. Nail down things like: where and how will you meet? What specific skills do you want to learn? What is the number one thing you want to get out of the relationship?
  • Have open communication. It can be difficult to have an open line of communication with someone from a different generation. Most likely, you will have different preferred methods of communication. Make sure that you keep this in mind when deciding what method to use and be open to the other person’s preference.
  • Be open-minded. Both partners must be open and willing to learn from each other. Don’t get frustrated if your partner doesn’t understand the skills you are teaching, instead, communicate with tact and give encouraging feedback. This will help them to understand your perspective and that your ultimate goal is to help them enhance their skills.
  • Keep track of your progress. Be sure to check in with your partner and ensure that you are both happy with the relationship. Ask each other if you are getting the information that you want from each other and learning the desired skills. If you see that you are not making your desired progress, set up a time to brainstorm and find new ways to achieve your goals.

Will there be possible drawbacks?

Yes, absolutely. With any implementation of a new program, there will be opposition from some members of your team. The majority of the opposition will come from the senior members on your team that believes they cannot learn from younger members of the team. They may not understand that even though they have years of experience, they can learn more about new and advancing technologies that younger members have a better understanding of. If the senior members of your team have this attitude about the mentorship, younger members may not feel as open to communicate and help their older colleagues. They need to feel confident during the program in order for it to be beneficial for both parties involved.

You may also get people that don’t want to devote additional time to the mentor program. They have busy schedules and if they don’t see the importance in the program, then they won’t take time out of their schedules.

“Learning is ever in the freshness of its youth, even for the old” -Aeschylus