Reverse Mentoring Done Differently

Traditionally, reverse mentoring has been defined as having younger members of an organisation mentor the older ones to get them up to speed on technology or new industry trends. Think older, senior executives being mentored by digital-savvy millennials on how ‘the kids’ are using social tools like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

Even though it’s a popular cliche, in all my time at Mentorloop, I’ve not seen one mentor program deployed in this way. 

And that’s because it is a cliche – and there’s no tangible benefit to anyone, including the company.  In fact, I’d also argue it’s quite ageist! Despite this, reverse mentoring continues to be a popular concept and something that organisations are seeking more advice on how best to deploy.

So how can organisations harness the power of reverse mentoring in the most impactful way?

Well, first, we need to challenge our traditionally held beliefs that we are simply turning the tables on a traditional hierarchical mentoring relationship. If we think like that we end up with example A above.

As employers, we’ve all experienced the Great Resignation in some capacity over the past 12 months. But with resignation comes rejuvenation. With new talent comes new expertise, new insights, and a new perspective. But often leaders and managers get caught up in the busyness of the day and we push this new person to embrace the way we’ve always done things.

To put it bluntly, we’re failing to capitalise on the very reason we hire new talent. Sure, there are always exceptions to this, but organisations rarely have an actual strategy to ensure we are harnessing the knowledge of our latest and brightest talent.

So, what if we changed the lens through which we viewed reverse mentoring and instead of using age, we used tenure at a company?

How Reverse Mentoring Can Be Deployed Better

This form of reverse mentoring works by having new employees take on the role of mentor for someone who has been with the organisation for a longer period of time. Remember – this has nothing to do with age. A 40-year-old new employee can mentor a 27-year-old who has been in the organisation for 5 years. Likewise, a 23-year-old on their second job can mentor a senior member of the organisation, a veteran of 10 years. 

This can also be done for employees making a shift from one department to another. For example, a team member making a shift from marketing to an operations role can be mentored by someone who has been working in operations for a number of years.

Why It Works

When people work in an organisation for a while, standard operating procedures and processes can become second nature. While this can be good for keeping the wheels turning, sometimes it keeps people blind to new ideas or more efficient ways of working. 

This is where an outside perspective is useful. It can spark new ideas by exposing organisation veterans to other practices, processes, and ideas outside the organisation they’ve worked at for so long.

For the new team member serving as a mentor, it’s a chance to learn about processes and how things are done in their new workplace and forge some connections in their new organisation and team. It’s also a chance to make early contributions by sharing their insights and enriching their new team’s perspective. 

This is also highly valuable for the new employees you’ve hired remotely. By now they may have had an opportunity to meet and interact with their direct team, but that is probably it. Creating these reverse mentoring relationships across functions gives people greater access to networking opportunities, allowing them to build relationships across the organisation, leading to a sense of belonging and engagement. All good stuff that makes sense for the individual and the organisation!

Where It Works

Better Onboarding

Dust off your buddy program! In the first 6 months of joining, match people up with someone with the same title, rank, or team who has been with the organisation for more than 2 years.

Knowledge Sharing

Pair up team members from the same department – with the newbies sharing insight, tacit knowledge and experience from their old teams with their new team members.

Connect Your Remote Team

New joiners in remote or hybrid teams can find it hard to integrate quickly. A great way to remove that awkwardness is to have a structured mentoring program where they can feel they’re able to contribute straight away using skills and insights they gained outside their new organisation. 

This way of doing reverse mentoring, basing it on tenure, is one that makes full use of the new talent you’ve welcomed into your organisation while also sharpening your existing team members. 

If you’re keen to find out how you can deploy a reverse mentoring program at your organisation, chat with one of our mentoring experts!

Chat to a Mentoring Expert

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Heidi is the Co-founder and COO of Mentorloop. She's passionate about all things mentoring, Kenny Rogers and Italian Greyhounds.

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