There are several companies that have been using reverse mentoring programmes for years, and with very good results in terms of Millennials' satisfaction and bridging generational gaps.
I recently submitted my MA's dissertation on that topic and one of my paramount findings was that the majority of the Millennials that participated in my research encountered reverse mentoring very beneficial.
But, what reverse mentoring refers to? It basically consist of pairing a top manager with a less experienced employee, acting the former as a mentee and the latter as a mentor. Originally, these programmes were utilised to ‘train’ executives on technology issues but their scope is nowadays broader and covers communication styles, consumer behaviours, latest trends or diversity and inclusion issues (Chaudhuri and Ghosh, 2012; Marcinkus Murphy, 2012). On top of that, as one of the Millennials I interviewed said, it is a really good tool for making top executives aware of the impact of their strategic decisions on the bottom line of the company.
When I asked the Millennial participants of my research what main benefits they could obtain through these programmes as reverse mentors, they pointed out they could enable them to enhance their soft skills’, business knowledge and their motivation. Furthermore, they affirmed this kind of programmes may be a golden opportunity for potential promotions and gain visibility within the organisation, along with a good way of understanding the grounds of important business decisions.
But in order to gain all the above benefits, we need to design these programmes properly and be aware of the potential obstacles that both reverse mentors and mentees may present. On one hand, reverse mentors suggested there may be credibility, confidence and respect issues when communicating with senior executives. And, on the other hand, they indicated that potential reverse mentees may be reluctant to listen and to change their way of doing things.
What can we do to combat the above obstacles? We can start by adopting the following measures:
- Establish reverse mentoring as a formal development programme within your Company and appoint an L&D expert to run it, market it, pair the right participants and follow-up.
- Give an introductory talk to potential reverse mentees to help them get rid of their reluctance and disbelief and show them practical examples and results obtained by other companies when they run this programme.
- Schedule a practical training session for volunteer reverse mentors and guide them through the steps they need to take to make the programme successful and provide them with basic guidelines on how to avoid potential problems.Within this session you can assist them with the drafting of the agreement that will establish the basis of their relationship with their reverse mentees and role play on some potential difficulties. Bear in mind that we Millennials love interacting and learning from others.
Every company is unique but I really believe that reverse mentoring can work out on most of them and it can be highly advantageous for both reverse mentors and mentees. So, why don't you give it a chance?