In a typical mentoring relationship, a senior employee offers wisdom to help a junior employee advance in their career. Reverse-mentoring turns that convention upside-down and is a beneficial practice of successful companies. In fact, 72% of the 2020 DiversityInc Top 50 companies report having reverse mentoring.
These types of connections facilitate interactions that allow younger employees to share their ideas and skills with senior professionals to foster enhanced collaboration between professionals of varying levels. This collaboration results in a more positive employee experience and greater innovation.
This form of knowledge-sharing helps companies achieve age diversity through symbiotic relationships among generations within the workforce. Harvard Business Review research found that reverse-mentoring helps with talent retention of younger employees because it aids in establishing both transparency from — and connection with—management.
There is also the benefit of digital skill-sharing. A younger digital native can help a seasoned professional implement new tools to help present their work in fresh ways. Social media best practices, mastery of workflow through digital interfaces and developing engaging ideas through multi-media platforms are all skills a recent graduate likely received formal training for in college. The Harvard Business Review’s case studies also found that giving millennial professionals the opportunity to share their ideas with senior managers helps drive the organization forward. Simply put, younger employees can offer fresh ideas to help keep companies stay relevant in an ever-changing landscape.
Related story: Mentoring Success Recipe
Reverse-mentoring champions diversity and inclusion by allowing different generations to connect and share ideas and skills. It also fosters empathy and understanding between professionals. For example, companies might also pair younger LGBTQ professionals, people of color, or employees with disabilities with managers to help leaders understand their experiences and the ideas they bring.
- Be intentional with the pairs you match up. Match mentors and mentees up based on diverse personalities and experiences to maximize the benefits.
- Address mentees’ reservations. Seasoned leaders may feel like learning from lower-level employees can jeopardize their authority or credibility. Confidentiality may also be a concern, however, do your research to mitigate or address those concerns.
- Train mentors on how to be effective. Companies can train young mentors on how to structure sessions with their mentees that are efficient and effective, and how to address challenges they might face. Entry-level mentors may benefit from training that will help them hone their leadership skills.