In the classic model of mentoring, executives who saw promise in younger employees might teach them lessons, share business knowledge and best practices from their years of work experience. Most aspiring young professionals valued this time and wisdom. But today’s job market reflects a change in the value placed on certain skills and areas of expertise. While nothing can replace years of experience in an industry, newer tools like social media are more frequently taught in universities, or unpaid internships. The millennials in your workplace have access to valuable information that could revolutionize your business practices, if only the executives cared to listen. Consider the benefits of reverse mentoring for your organization, where senior managers could stand to learn a great deal.
What Do You Have to Offer?
There are plenty of subjects worth tackling when it comes time to discuss with your millennial colleague. So notify your colleagues about the program, and ask everyone to brainstorm what they’re most comfortable sharing. Maybe Matt the marketing assistant manager is a social media genius. Or perhaps Suzanne, who works in finance, could show you how to use some new tools for calculating ROI. Take a passionate staff member, eager to share their expertise with the rest of the company, and you stand to learn a great deal about your own position, and how to work more efficiently. Don’t forget to include the executives. The senior executives and employees in middle management can offer a great deal of wisdom from their years of work experience, which can make for a fascinating discussion. Once everyone has established the topics that they’d like to discuss, you can start a matching process to see who would benefit most from which lessons and interactions.
Consider the Format
Company culture will vary. If your organization is hierarchical in nature, with a clear chain of command, then perhaps you haven’t had many opportunities to mingle with some of the junior associates. But if your company prefers flat hierarchies, you may already know the newest hires fairly well. When structuring any sort of mentorship project, think about the goals that your company wants to achieve. If you want to focus on creating a long term partnership between an executive and a junior staff member, the two parties meet regularly to exchange ideas over lunch. Or you could organize biweekly innovation meetings, where senior and junior staff take turns presenting their learnings and experiences. Stay open-minded and remember that the benefits of reverse mentoring lie in the open exchange of knowledge between both parties, the mentor and the mentee.
Topics to Consider
If you’re stuck on which themes to discuss with your mentoring partner, here’s a quick list to get you started.
- Digital tools and classic methods for improving business processes
- Current events, and how they might impact your industry
- Work experiences and best practices for tough situations
- New business opportunities and how best to approach them
- Visions for immediate, short-term and long-term corporate strategy
Remember that this process should involve the open exchange of information. While most experts put emphasis on the fact that “mentoring” is defined as the guidance of a younger employee by an older, more experienced senior employee, the term “reverse mentoring” simply refers to the more modern concept that junior employees can also offer a wealth of valuable information to their colleagues. There is no leader in a reverse mentoring situation, but rather two equals who can openly discuss their individual areas of expertise and personal experiences.
We wish you and your company the best of luck in implementing a reverse mentoring policy! Keep moving, keep improving, and you can only succeed.