People often think that the longer you work for an organization, the more you know and the less you need to learn. However, young starters often bring new skills and expertise, and they can provide fresh perspectives and ways of working that can benefit their more established colleagues. And this is where reverse mentoring can play a crucial role…
Yes, reverse mentoring is kind of a buzz word. According to Techopedia, it’s an “initiative in which older executives are paired with and mentored by younger employees on topics such as technology, social media and current trends. Reverse mentoring is seen as a way to bring older employees up to speed in areas that are often second nature to 20-something employees”.
At ORMIT, however, we believe reverse mentoring can be so much more than learning the latest memes or tricks on Tik Tok. If you accept that “Talent has no Age” and believe that trends can have a big and lasting impact on business and economy, you and your organization can benefit immensely from reverse mentoring.
A reverse mentoring program can increase the retention of Millennials. It provides Millennials with the transparency and recognition that they’re seeking from management. They can practice in knowledge-sharing as the subject matter expert (which, early in their career, they rarely ever experience). It also boosts their confidence to speak up to those with more traditional experience than themselves. Providing this place where young starters feel heard, judgement-free will only increase their engagement and commitment towards your organization.
While digital skill development should not be the focus of a reverse mentoring program, many of the companies see it as a meaningful part of the relationship. And even more important: It allows to learn something from someone as opposed to just learning about something. This is like the difference between immersing yourself in a new language around a native speaker versus learning on your own out of a textbook. ORMIT has young and eager Data Chiefs that are more than willing to share their knowledge and expertise with all members of your organization.
Reverse mentoring can also be a huge driver for culture change. It allows you to identify a lot of useful information within your organization: areas you’re missing (and blindspots), processes that aren’t working, work that is really exciting or not exciting, … The expertise you’ve built up over time is important but, if left to little or no innovation or renovation, can be limiting. A fresh and new perspective from your younger team members can bulldoze years of stale habits and can thus be very liberating.
Convinced reverse mentoring could be exactly what your organization needs? We have some tips and tricks for you!
The right match is crucial. An effective mentoring relationship needs good chemistry between both participants, so don't choose someone "just because they're young." Instead, your ideal partner should have skills or knowledge that you need and be willing to build a relationship with you. ORMIT has carefully selected their young talents for you and your organization, so you’re covered!
Address mentees’ fear and distrust. Many executives are fearful of revealing their lack of knowledge to junior employees. But if the fears are addressed explicitly, open sharing can be incredibly rewarding. You know you are exposing yourself, you are exposing your vulnerabilities and that helps actually strengthen the bond between you and your mentor.
Ensure strong commitment from the mentees. The number one reason that reverse mentoring programs fail is that the executives don’t prioritize the relationship. After a couple of cancelled sessions, the momentum quickly dwindles.
Reverse mentoring can come in many formats.
• Hosting a small group discussion around a topic or trend. During ORMIT traineeships, we organized “Perspective Challengers” where young trainees invited senior management to discuss and exchange perspectives.
• Assigning specific emerging technologies or trends to a set of younger team members to research and report back on to your organization in a lunch-and-learn format.
• Matching up more experienced mentees with younger mentors and encouraging a monthly one-on-one framework for mentoring.
• Try a couple of these formats out, then find the one that works best for you and your organization and go for it.
To conclude, we gladly add what Thomas De Wulf, CEO of the ORMIT Group has to say on the topic: