Innovation drives growth, but innovating successfully requires creative approaches to familiar problems. Reverse mentoring, in which younger employees mentor older employees rather than the other way around, is a reliable and powerful way to foster creativity company-wide. One need only look to Fortune 500 investment and insurance company The Hartford for an example.
The Hartford’s Reverse Mentoring Initiative
The Hartford launched its Reverse Mentoring Initiative so that the company could bring its marketing into the modern age. While the corporate training program was a resounding success in improving the organization’s online presence and increasing its marking acumen, it also boosted productivity and intergenerational communication, eliminating unnecessary meetings and streamlining processes. According to Sophia Morell, founder and principal of virtual mentoring company eMentorConnect, results like these are typical for well-designed mentoring programs.
Benefits of Reverse Mentoring
“Mentoring leads to higher employee retention,” says Morell. “Millennials stay put longer and everyone experiences higher job satisfaction and engagement, but reverse mentoring also creates efficiencies in training and development. That’s something fewer people recognize. It lets older generations learn new technologies quickly and easily in the way they like best — with a teacher. At the same time, millennials are encouraged to adapt to different ways of doing things, such as picking up the phone instead of simply emailing or texting, while being able to bring in their own ideas, like using Slack for supplemental communications.”
“Reverse mentoring also improves communication between generations by improving access,” she adds. “The mentoring meetings establish rapport and eliminate intimidation on both sides, which leads to relaxed and respectful communication. Long-term mentoring programs keep the conversations going and help maintain a culture of feedback.”
“Having a clear objective and a clear structure is crucial to success,” says Morrell. “Reverse mentors, who are typically the younger and less experienced in the partnership, rely on structure and a clear goal to help them mentor their more senior mentees. If the mentors don’t feel confident in what they’re teaching and how they’re teaching it, the relationships are more likely to fizzle.”
“Our digital mentoring platform, KNOX®, is a fully customizable, cloud-based solution that enables admins to intuitively set up a mentoring program’s objective and structure. It makes implementation easy,” she explains. “It also enables us to chunk information and make it bite-size, which millennials love. This lets them create content modules around any of the new technologies that the older generation needs to learn — like Google Drive or Slack — and exchange micro-learning events, like ‘How to Use Slack’ that are about 10 minutes long each. That makes business skills training palatable to both participants by respecting their time, while helping millennials teach in a way that feels natural to them. Our platform even lets admins create mini-modules for the millennial mentors on how to mentor, which makes everything even simpler.”
No matter how well designed a program is, however, results only come with participation and engagement. This makes tackling interest and acceptance the next crucial step to experiencing Hartford-level success with reverse mentoring.
“Acceptance and interest is key,” says Morell. “There’s always interest in traditional mentoring because employees want to meet with their bosses, grow as leaders, and progress in their careers. However, for a reverse mentoring program to work, the older employees must be interested.”
“That can be a real challenge,” she adds, “but a company can grow that interest after the program has been built and implemented by showing more senior employees how much easier a mentor makes learning the new tools they need to learn. Most older generation workers just want to keep doing their job in the way they’ve been doing it for the last 20 to 30 years. To innovate and grow, however, they have to learn new technologies and techniques. Having someone show them how to do that enables them to learn so much more quickly, and that’s how the company generates interest. Focus on the tangible benefits — like having someone they can call for instant tech support — and the interest will come.”
Ready to learn more about harnessing the power of new technologies to foster growth and creativity in your organization? Schedule a demo of the eMentorConnect KNOX® solution today.