Reverse Mentoring

Most organizations have a mentoring program where the older, more experienced employees take a younger, novice employee under their wings to teach them the ropes.  This intentional passing of institutional knowledge has become a mainstay in educating the next generation of company leaders.

Recently, however, many companies are discovering that the newer, younger employees have much to offer the older, senior company leaders.

Reverse Mentoring

The awareness of what new employees can offer to older employees has created an intentional program where the younger employees are now mentoring the older employees in programs titled reverse mentoring.

For most of us who have been in the workforce for over twenty years, our skills, cultural awareness, and language usage are no longer current.  We are not the digital natives of the younger employees.  What was once deemed appropriate and acceptable in attire and language usage is foreign to the new generation.

So, what better way to keep the “old fogies” current and productive than to have the new generation of employees teach them.

Benefits

The benefits of a reverse mentoring program are many.

  • Closes the knowledge gap for both parties:  For example, older employees learn social media from the younger person, and the younger person learns business terminology and industry practices from the older employee.
  • Empowers both emerging and established leaders
  • Brings different employee generations closer together:  Eliminates the “us versus them” mentality by fostering more inclusivity.
  • Increases retention of the younger workers by providing them with the transparency and recognition that they’re seeking from management.

Keys to a Successful Reverse Mentoring Program

  1. Both parties need to be prepared to learn. The senior manager needs to make a conscious and intentional effort to find and work with a younger mentor. Senior members need to be ready to learn, open to new ideas, willing to try something new, and most importantly, be prepared to make mistakes.
  2. Accept humility. The older generation must be humble enough to set aside their perception of authority and privilege brought on by age and experience.  And the younger employees must be humble enough to overcome their knowledge and awareness of the current cultural climate.
  3. Purpose. Both parties must agree on the purpose of mentorship. Purposes might include sharing skills on technology, data, information, insight, or even the ever-changing mindset about privilege.
  4. Identify norms for the relationship. Norms should include how to communicate, when and where to meet, language (using informal terms as opposed to formal hierarchical terms), and, most importantly, confidentiality.
  5. Understand when the mentoring relationship is over— in other words, when the initial purpose is met, and it is time to move on to something else.

The Bible

Psalm 145:4 says.

 “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts,”

God’s work on earth is always about including everyone, male and female, old and young, and of all races and creeds.  Psalm 145:4 doesn’t say it is for the older generation to the younger, but from one generation to another.

God is reminding us we all have something to teach each other.

Mentorship is such an essential activity for each business to undertake.  And if having the younger employees teach the older ones will benefit your business, then get started.