13 Nov Ready to Level Up Your New Leaders? Think Upside Down.
Leadership, engagement, retention…
There’s a lot more to reverse mentoring than meets the eye.
Before we know it, Millennials will be the driving force in most workplaces – they already are, in some sectors. We also know that new and younger hires benefit greatly from mentoring relationships with senior leaders at the company. Numerous studies have shown that mentoring increases job satisfaction, making traditional mentoring an indispensable part of a sound retention strategy. The truth is that both parties can benefit from mentoring, and that even more benefit can be had when the mentor/mentee roles are reversed.
Reverse mentoring is a knowledge transfer model where younger members (Millennials and Generation Z, for instance) of an organization mentor older employees in technology, social media, and innovative ways of thinking. A 2018 Forbes article shared that not only does reverse mentoring benefit mentors and mentees, but by flipping the hierarchy of the organization, retention of younger employees is increased, and organizations are able to hold a competitive edge through improved competency in technology at all levels of the company.
On its face, reverse mentoring bridges the gap between generations, but its value as a retention tool is much deeper. Reverse mentoring empowers a new wave of employees to practice being leaders in a low-risk environment, honing critical skills for career development. Further, the invitation to teach and to showcase expertise is also a valuable form of public recognition, which is consistently at the top of the pile of responses given when employees are asked “what motivates you at work?”. The immense value of reverse mentoring also spills over into succession, as it offers current leadership an opportunity to identify high potential employees early in their careers.
Traditional mentoring and reverse mentoring are not mutually exclusive: great mentorship pairs should have an element of both. When we make the assumption that one party is all-knowing, and the other is just a receiver of information – an empty vessel awaiting knowledge – we do a disservice to ourselves and to our organization. We all have so much that we can learn from one another, and reverse mentoring can help create and nurture a culture of learning within your company. By breaking down the barriers within organizational power structures, senior members also have the opportunity to reflect on their own leadership styles and increase their social capital within the company.
[Quick side note from this Millenial: I still struggle with new technologies from time to time. The assumption that Millennials magically know how to navigate all aspects of tech is simply not the case. Through mentorship, when you hit a tech snag, you and your partner can work through it together – and I honestly think these little moments can be the best parts of a job. There is no better way to bond with a coworker over the shared frustration of a broken projector or a botched microphone. This might be regarded as on demand mentoring – something we’ll cover in another blog.]
Whether it is a traditional mentorship, a reverse pairing, or a hybrid of the two, the value of mentoring as a vital part of a company’s HR tech stack is indisputable. Retention and engagement strategies can be complex, but automated reverse mentoring programs help simplify administration and keep tight control on costs. And at ground level, your team sees a valuable service that injects both meaning and fun into their work day… a true win/win situation.
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