Taking advantage of reverse mentoring

By Jan Murray
Reverse Mentoring in the Workplace Implementation

Last updated

You may have heard of reverse mentoring, and even have a thorough understanding of it, but actually implementing a reverse mentoring programme within a workplace, an association or university can be quite daunting. So, how do you get started?

Creating a reverse mentoring program that works

Establishing a successful reverse mentoring program requires careful planning and execution. The following steps can help you create an effective initiative that fosters intergenerational collaboration, promotes knowledge sharing, and benefits both mentors and mentees:

  1. Determine your objectives: Clearly define the goals of your reverse mentoring program, such as improving digital skills among senior employees or fostering diversity and inclusion within the organisation.
  2. Match participants carefully: Identify potential mentor-mentee pairs based on shared interests, complementary skill sets, or similar career paths. Make sure both individuals are open to gaining knowledge from one another and devoted to the program.
  3. Create guidelines for engagement: Establish expectations around communication frequency, duration of sessions, confidentiality issues, and feedback mechanisms. This will provide structure and support participants throughout their journey together.
  4. Provide training resources: Offer guidance materials for mentors and mentees to ensure they feel confident and prepared to engage effectively with one another. Consider hosting workshops or seminars covering topics like active listening, giving and receiving constructive criticism, navigating generational differences and workplace culture.
  5. Monitor progress and evaluate success: Regularly check in with pairs to assess how well their relationship is developing and whether goals are being met or adjusted as needed. Gather feedback and insights from all involved to refine and improve future iterations of the program.

In addition to the above steps, it is crucial to foster a supportive environment where millennial mentors feel empowered to drive the direction and content of sessions, while also ensuring senior leaders recognise the value of contributions made by younger colleagues through participation in initiatives like this one. For example, the Forbes Human Resources Council suggests promoting reverse mentoring programs as part of a broader diversity and inclusion strategy, highlighting success stories to encourage more employees to participate.

By following these guidelines and fostering an open-minded culture that values continuous learning, your organisation can successfully implement a reverse mentoring program that benefits all involved.

When leveraging the potential of reverse mentoring, companies can gain a competitive edge and remain abreast of emerging trends. By providing the right direction, it is possible to develop a beneficial program for both mentors and mentees.

Key Takeaway:

To implement a successful reverse mentoring program, organisations should define clear objectives, carefully match participants based on shared interests and skills, establish engagement guidelines, provide training resources and monitor progress. It is also important to foster an open-minded culture that values continuous learning and, of done correctly, can promote diversity and inclusion through initiatives like this one.

Junior mentors

Junior mentors can help managers understand how to motivate and retain young workers. They can also provide first-hand knowledge of a younger customer base – critical for companies aiming to tap into the youth market. And they know how to digitally connect with influencers who can send business their way.

From the junior mentor's point of view it is a fantastic opportunity to network at high levels, and to develop confidence and experience in relating to a senior manager and being empowered to express their ideas.

However, it's important for mentoring partners to be ready for change and be willing to take the time to learn. Mentees in a reverse mentoring relationship need to be aware that today's twenty-something mentor may not have the same work ethics they had when they were in their twenties. However, reverse mentoring can re-energise mentees as they get an input of energy and ideas from a motivated younger person. If both mentee and mentor go in with an open mind, it will pay massive dividends.

Potential Challenges & Overcoming Them

Implementing reverse mentoring programs can present some obstacles, such as resistance to change and generational differences. Still, with the proper attitude and outlook, these difficulties can be managed successfully.

Common Obstacles in Reverse Mentoring

  • Resistance to Change: Senior employees may initially feel threatened or uncomfortable being mentored by someone younger. This resistance can hinder the success of a reverse mentoring program.
  • Generational Differences: Different generations often have varying communication styles, work ethics, and perspectives on technology. These differences might create misunderstandings between mentors and mentees.

Solutions for Overcoming Challenges

  1. Promote Open Communication: Encourage both mentors and mentees to express their concerns openly from the beginning of the relationship. This will help build trust between them. For example, companies like PwC have successfully implemented open communication strategies in their reverse mentoring programs.
  2. Create a Supportive Environment: Provide training sessions that address potential issues arising from generational differences before starting a reverse mentoring program. Offer ongoing support throughout the process to ensure participants feel comfortable discussing any challenges they encounter.
  3. Foster Adaptability: Encourage senior employees to embrace new ideas presented by their millennial mentors while also sharing valuable insights gained through years of experience. By doing so, both parties benefit from each other's unique perspectives.
  4. Highlight the Benefits: Emphasise the advantages of participating in a reverse mentoring program, such as increased intergenerational collaboration and improved digital skills. This will help senior employees understand the value of being mentored by someone younger.

By addressing these challenges head-on and providing solutions to overcome them, organisations can create an effective reverse mentoring program that benefits both mentors and mentees while fostering intergenerational learning. Reverse mentoring can help senior leaders learn from younger team members, build trust, and retain millennial talent. It can also provide junior colleagues with a fresh perspective and help them develop leadership skills. With a formal reverse mentoring program in place, organisations can create a multi-generational workforce that is better equipped to meet the needs of younger consumers.

In order to ensure a successful reverse mentoring program, it is important to understand the potential challenges and how best to overcome them. Let us now examine successful cases of reverse mentoring schemes executed by businesses.

Key Takeaway:

Implementing reverse mentoring programs can present challenges such as resistance to change and generational differences. To overcome these obstacles, organisations should promote open communication, create a supportive environment, foster adaptability, and highlight the benefits of participating in the program. By doing so, they can create an effective reverse mentoring program that fosters intergenerational learning and benefits both mentors and mentees while retaining millennial talent.

Real-life Examples & Success Stories

Examples of successful reverse mentoring programs, which have had a positive impact on both individuals and organisations, will be explored in this section. These case studies demonstrate the power of reverse mentoring in fostering intergenerational collaboration, promoting innovation, and enhancing overall business performance.

BNY Mellon's Pershing Division Success Story

BNY Mellon's Pershing division, a leading provider of global financial solutions, implemented a successful reverse mentoring program under the leadership of CEO Lisa Dolly. One notable example is her partnership with young mentor Jordan Kennelly, who taught Dolly about social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter to enhance her digital presence. This learning experience not only helped Dolly stay connected with clients but also allowed Kennelly to gain valuable insights into executive decision-making processes.

As a bonus, in 2019, it saw an enhancement in its retention rate, reaching 96% for the 77 millennials who participated in its reverse-mentoring program over a three-year period. However, an executive from the company points out that it's challenging to attribute this retention rate solely to reverse mentoring. "Millennials genuinely seek acknowledgement and... this type of relationship aids in fulfilling that need," according to Jordan.

These employees, who are still carving out their career trajectories, are not only looking to be listened to but also to feel supported within their work environment. Jordan also mentioned that he felt reverse mentoring had transformed in the era of the pandemic, becoming a way for high-ranking executives to better understand the work preferences of their younger staff. This includes desires for remote work, flexibility, wellbeing provisions, and diversity initiatives. In numerous instances, this has resulted in the formulation of updated workplace policies.

PwC's Successful Reverse Mentoring Program

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), one of the world's largest professional services firms, launched an ambitious reverse mentoring initiative that emphasised diversity across regions and departments. The program aimed at pairing senior leaders with younger employees from different backgrounds to foster open dialogue around topics such as technology trends or workplace culture issues. As a result, PwC witnessed increased engagement levels among participants while creating opportunities for knowledge sharing between generations.

Key Takeaways:

  • Reverse mentoring can lead to improved communication within organisations by bridging generational gaps.
  • The exchange of ideas fosters innovation by allowing both mentors and mentees access to new perspectives on various business challenges.
  • Reverse mentoring programs can help retain top talent by providing opportunities for professional growth and recognition from senior management.

In both of these success stories, the organisations were able to harness the power of reverse mentoring to promote intergenerational learning and drive positive change. By embracing this innovative approach, companies can stay ahead in today's rapidly evolving business landscape while fostering a culture of continuous improvement and collaboration among employees.

What's the next stage?

At PLD we are here to help you to develop and implement reverse mentoring programs using our mentor matching platform and mentoring tools and resources. If you would like to find out more about how reverse mentoring can be implemented in your company or organisation call us on 01625 251 055 to talk to us about how we have helped many other organisations, employers, universities and associations to develop their mentoring programs.

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