7 advantages reverse mentoring might bring to your team
Assigning a junior employee with the task to mentor their senior colleague might sound like a counter-productive idea. This is how people responded to reverse mentoring when it was first introduced in the business world. Fast forward a few years, and we’ve seen some amazing results from this strategy. It turns out that seniors had skill gaps that only juniors could fill, and this is just the right strategy to optimize the work of your team.
It wasn’t that long ago when employers realized that hiring the right employees doesn’t always equal hiring the people with the most experience. In the past, the workplace was dominated by people of one age group. Businesses today aim to create a versatile workplace and employ a mix of generations and ages.
This has proven to be one of the smartest ways to lead a business. Reverse monitoring seems to be another one. Heineken’s mentoring program, for example, resulted in 86% of senior leaders revealing that they wanted to learn new skills from the junior employees. Judged by the success of this form of coaching, we might have found the perfect way to optimize a multi-generational workforce.
In this article, you’ll learn all about reverse mentoring, how it’s done, and how your business can benefit from it.
Understanding reverse mentoring
This refers to mentoring out of the traditional sense. Senior and junior employees are paired together, but their roles are reversed – the junior employee is teaching his senior colleague. This concept mainly aims to encourage more professional relationships regardless of seniority or rank, as well as to promote a healthier workplace environment.
That might be the primary goal, but it’s not the only reason why it was invented. The idea is credited to Jack Welch, the CEO of General Electric back in the late nineties. At the time, most senior employees did not know how to use technology and modern tools. This is why Welch asked new joiners to mentor 500 executives in the first reverse mentoring exercise.
So, it’s not just about promoting healthier relationships, but also about learning more effectively. Whilst senior employees have the experience, juniors have a fresher perspective. The latter have completed their training just recently, so they are up to date with new techniques taught at school, as well as more acquainted with new technologies.
How to implement it in your organization
A program that includes reverse mentoring can be very useful for your organization. There aren’t many initiatives that promote employee communication and help them learn from each other’s experiences. That being said, you could integrate this into your employee experience program.
If you’re ready to try this approach, Perbox’s employee experience platform can help you integrate this into your list of perks for the employees at your company.
To get you inspired, here are some examples:
- The senior sales executive is coached by a college graduate that was employed just recently on how to use various social media channels for marketing purposes.
- A VP of finance with years of experience is coached by a junior analyst at the same company to learn more about the new trends in fin-tech.
- A baby boomer with years of experience at a company is taught how to use Snapchat for marketing by a millennial who was just employed.
It’s important to note that this doesn’t replace traditional mentoring. There’s still a lot that the junior analyst can learn from the senior VP of finance to improve their work at the company. Companies combine the two for the best results.
Top advantages of reverse mentoring
Now that you know what this form of coaching is and how you can try it in your organization, let’s move on to the reasons why you should do this.
1. Breaking down generational stereotypes
We all strive to create a more inclusive workplace culture. If your company employs people from different generations, this coaching strategy can be a great way to support inclusivity. You’d basically be partnering younger employees with older, usually more senior employees. By giving them the reverse role, you’ll bridge the divide between the generations and help them forget about the stereotypes.
In the workplace, young people view senior employees as ‘too old for the digital age’ or ‘incapable to keep up with the trends’. Seniors, on the other hand, view the new additions to the workplace as ‘too young and inexperience’.
Here are some stereotypes about the baby boomers:
And here is what the baby boomers and generation X think of the millennials:
If you show them that everyone in the workplace can learn something useful from others, this can bring your team together and break down such stereotypes.
2. Increased employee retention
This approach is also known to reduce employee turnover, especially with millennials. Millennials are hard to retain in the workforce because they are high-achievers. By allowing them to coach seniors and share their knowledge, companies are providing millennials with the recognition they need.
Here are just a few of the things that can boost employee satisfaction with this form of coaching:
- Recognition for their knowledge and skills
- Higher engagement with their work
- Sense of achievement when they teach others something
- Achievement for contributing to the company where they work
Companies with good employee training programs have 53% lower attrition rates. This is a great opportunity to make your program a bigger success.
3. Building trust and stronger relationships
Have you ever wondered why companies provide junior employees with mentorship opportunities but expect their senior staff to educate themselves and fill their skill gaps?
It might be unconventional, but asking your junior employee to help out a senior employee to close their skill gaps is a way to make both sides feel included. This way, junior employees are no longer seen as inferior in their relationship with seniors. This type of coaching challenges how people from different generations communicate. It helps them build stronger relationships, and develop a culture of trust.
4. Creating a sense of belonging
In 2020, there were only 13 women on the Global Fortune 500 list, and none were women of color. The business world has changed a lot in the last few decades, but the lack of diversity in senior positions is still very present today.
Let this sink in first. Then, take action to fix it in your company. Reverse mentoring can help with this because, when you pair senior leaders with junior employees of different genders, races, and economic backgrounds, this will remind everyone of the lack of diversity in high corporate positions.
Giving your team actual proof of this will make it more likely that they’ll take action to change this.
On top of that, your company can cultivate a deeper sense of belonging among the employees. In big companies, this method can bring together employees who would have never crossed paths if this form of mentoring wasn’t introduced. This gives people a stronger sense of belonging.
Moreover, it will keep everyone engaged and show those who were discriminated against for way too long that you are attempting to fix this in your organization.
5. More engagement in the workplace
In a study from 2021, developers that took part in a reverse mentoring program showed an increase in engagement and improvement in performance. It’s no wonder – people who are more engaged in the workplace are less stressed and more likely to enjoy their work.
6. More freedom to speak up
In the traditional workplace, the senior employee is superior to the new, junior members of the team. Entry-level employees never had the opportunity – or the courage to speak up or even communicate with the senior. A simple ‘good day, sir’ used to be the only thing a new employee could say to a senior.
Now with this different form of coaching, companies combine people with different experiences and backgrounds, which helps build relationships on different levels. It gives new hires a chance to speak freely to everyone in the company, as well as speak up and share their ideas without fear or shame.
7. Empowering future leaders
Think of it this way. The person that you just employed might be the company’s C-level executive in the future. By connecting them to current C-level executives, you are giving them a chance to work with people with experience and get the guidance they need for the role that awaits them.
Ready to try reverse mentoring?
If you haven’t done so already, make sure to include this in your training program as soon as possible. The benefits from it can be amazing, but you’ll never know unless you give it a shot, will you?
Nadica Metuleva is a freelance writer who’s passionate about creating quality, original content. She holds a Master’s degree in English teaching and a Bachelor’s degree in translation. With 8 years of experience in the freelance writing industry, Nadica has become proficient in creating content that captivates the audience, drives growth, and educates. You can find her on LinkedIn.