Reverse Mentoring: An initiative that can pay compounding returns

In my earlier article, ‘The trick to retain and enable young employees’, I had discussed the case of Mr. Sandeep Punjabi,  a middle-aged entrepreneur, who owns a business in IT Integration space with multiple corporate customers. His company had been consistently losing younger employees.

reverse-mentoringIn that article, I had touched on concept of Reverse Mentoring – a win–win initiative wherein a senior person in the organization is engaged with a younger employee with the objective of gaining a new perspective or learning about an area of younger employee’s expertise.

Interestingly for Mr. Sandeep, things started to change when he started identifying the activities that each of his employees were great at & made it a point that he as well as others in his organization learned from that person. While it remains to be seen if this initiative has long term impact on retention, I hear that involvement & ownership of younger employees in his company has noticeably increased.

Reverse Mentoring, when done systematically & consistently, has compounding effects. In today’s article, I wish to touch on this topic & how you can get started with it.

First, let me tell about the benefits.

1) Positive impact on the person who teaches

Teaching a senior person in the organization will often be seen as a challenge by younger employees. This is a nice change to the routine job-related activities they are used to doing.

Secondly, their awareness about their own ability & expertise will increase. As a result, confidence & motivation of the younger employees will quickly go up.

This initiative will also form new bond of respect (and perhaps of friendship) between that younger employee & the senior person. This bond might even avert the separation decision of younger employee because of the strong affinity developed.

 2) The actual learning

Senior person will gain new perspectives, learn about a new technologies or sometimes even about broader changes in the industry. This when combined with their experience can be very valuable.

 3) Learning Culture

When a senior person shows that he/she is willing to learn from others, it automatically sends a signal to the rest of the organization. Consistently doing so & encouraging other senior people to do the same sets tones for the learning culture.

 Learning culture & growth mindset go hand-in-hand. One ‘happy’ side-effect of reverse mentoring is that employees will start collaborating across experience & age groups. Often, this results in discovering newer or better ways of doing things.

 

Though the concept is simple, reverse mentoring (& in a broader sense, learning from others) needs a change of mindset & consistent work to make it part of the culture.

I have seen several SMEs in which senior people believe that employees (especially younger ones) have little interest in doing good work. This belief must change.

Secondly, senior people need to admit that the younger employees can teach them new things. It takes humility to admit this in front of others.

Lastly, initiatives such as reverse mentoring won’t sustain over longer term until both teaching & learning are made part of defined individual goals.

 

If you & your organization make right efforts, you would soon start seeing your people take initiative to learn from others across all age & experience levels.  Learning from younger people would no longer been seen as embarrassing or frowned upon. That’s when you would know that you have succeeded.

What has been your experience about learning from others especially from the younger employees in your organization? Please use this link to write to me.

 

Note 1:

The article, ‘Reverse Mentoring: An initiative that can pay compounding returns’, is written based on my professional experience at Pinnacle and other companies.

Pinnacle specializes in working with the management of family-owned companies to craft & implement HR Strategies to accomplish their business vision & goals.

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