14 Apr Reverse Mentoring: How To Make it Work for Your Organization
Let’s tell you a story.
It’s about Jack Welch, an American business executive, a chemical engineer and the chairman and CEO of General Electric.
He’s also known as the CEO who received the largest retirement severance payment in business history ($417M).
However, amongst many great things, Jack Welch is credited with popularizing the concept of reverse mentoring.
In an interview, Jack explained that he met with a CEO in London who promptly informed him that he (the CEO) was a mentee.
The CEO further explained that at certain themes and practices in present-day business, he was out of touch, so he paired himself up with his brightest young employee to receive mentoring.
To Jack, this was a goldmine!
Reverse mentoring is the inverse version of mentoring relationships as most people understand it.
In reverse mentoring older executives are paired with young employees on relevant topics where the younger employee has more expertise and ideas.
Reverse mentoring takes everything you know about mentoring and flips it!
That is what Jack Welch did with his organization.
“We now have the youngest and brightest teaching the oldest”, he explained.
In reverse mentoring, while the older employees pass down years of well-kept business secrets and expertise, the younger employees share from their own cultural and generation-specific skills and expertise.
Reverse mentoring within organisations has been credited with developing a learning culture, bridging generational gaps, increasing millennial retention in some organizations by over 90%, and developing leadership and communication skills.
While Mentor Africa Foundation is specialized in the traditional mentoring template, we’ve researched how reverse mentoring can work for your organization.
Launching a Reverse Mentoring Programme for Your Organization in 4 Simple Steps
1. Define Goals and Expectations
Anything that is done without determining its specific purpose is prone to abuse.
Hence, like every other strategy or business decision you put in place in your organization, you need to first define the goals and expectations of the reverse mentoring program not just for your organization but for your employees involved in this program.
What does your organization and employees stand to gain from this exercise?
Off the bat, here are a few things they could gain
- Improved digital and social skills
- Company-wide shared learning
- Social and cultural inclusivity
- Increased employee retention
- Stronger employee networks
- Leadership and communication skills
While determining the goals for this program, it is also pertinent to define what success in this program would look like.
How do you measure the success and/or failure of this exercise?
What is the continuity plan?
How big do you want to go in the pilot program?
These are all questions to ask and answer before launching a reverse mentoring program.
2. Identify Potential Matches
The most important ingredient for a potentially successful mentoring relationship is having the right match.
Having successful matches is paramount to the successful outcome of your reverse mentoring program.
This is especially important because you are creating an unconventional mentoring relationship so you need to be careful with the matches you make.
A good tip is to study our mentoring programme to study creating catalogues and mentor and mentee matching.
However, traditional mentor-mentee matches are made using the field of interest, careers, soft and hard skills, and knowledge base.
These are some criteria that you can consider looking into.
3. Train Your Mentors and Mentees
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, you need to remember that this is not your regular mentoring relationship.
This program is asking senior executives in your companies to receive tutorage from their subordinates.
In the same vein, young employees without a lot of experience are tasked with sharing expertise with their superiors (Managers, directors, etc).
In doing this, a bit of training is more than welcome.
Mentors and mentees must be taught on being open to learning from each other, being willing to get a tad uncomfortable, being open-minded, having mutual respect, active listening, and commitment.
4. Launch, Monitor and Measure
Once you’ve gotten the first three steps out of the way and have created your matches, it’s time to launch your program.
It’s a good idea to launch your pilot reverse mentoring program with a little fanfare to enable the participants to understand the importance of the program to the organization and recognize that it is a company-wide program, not a task holstered on a specific employee.
Once you’ve launched your program you need to actively measure as you go.
Not at the beginning, but consistently throughout the program.
Schedule regular check-ins with mentors and mentees to get feedback, ensure that mentors and mentees are meeting regularly, run surveys and polls using the participants, track to see if mentors and mentees are reaching their personal mentorship goals.
With reverse mentoring you need to stay in the loop from day one till the end.
Jack Welch in his pilot reverse mentoring program paired 500 senior and junior employees.
You can go just as big if you have the required resources to measure at such a scale or start small.
Either way, the benefits are worth it.
If you’re not ready to flip the script then click here to sign up to provide or receive mentoring at no cost.