Reverse mentoring is an emerging mentoring practice that can benefit organizations and employees. This article explores what a reverse mentoring program is, its advantages, and best practices that can help you make the most of this modern mentoring format.
What is a Reverse Mentoring Program?
Traditionally, mentoring consists of a senior mentor offering guidance and assistance to a less experienced mentee—a practice that reaps rewards for everyone involved, as well as the organization as a whole. Reverse mentoring programs are a swapped form of this practice in which a junior employee mentors a more experienced colleague. Organizations such as PwC, Linklaters and The United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) all use reverse mentoring programs in the workplace.
Importance of Reverse Mentoring
Reverse mentoring programs offer several benefits in the right situations. When used successfully, these programs help older employees get up to speed on technical skills that are native to younger generations. However, reverse mentoring offers many other benefits as well, including:
- Developing cultural understanding among people of different generations, demographics or backgrounds
- Creating valuable connections among various levels of the organization
- Fostering diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging
- Sparking different ways of thinking and innovation new practices
How to Implement a Reverse Mentoring Program
It’s important to establish your reverse mentoring program thoughtfully and strategically to create a strong foundation for success.
1. Start small
Starting small is one way to ensure that you create a safe environment for all involved. Begin by building a small pilot program. Keep the participation level to a manageable number and ask for feedback regularly. Based on the feedback, implement adjustments and changes immediately, and prepare to solicit feedback again. Once you’ve completed your first cohort, you can prepare to expand your program to new participants, departments, locations and beyond.
2. Make the perfect match
Reverse mentoring involves two people with extremely different experiences, backgrounds, and cultures. Therefore, creating the ideal mentoring partnership is vital. Choose mentors who possess good social skills and have the confidence to interact with and teach senior management.
Finding the right pairings of mentors and mentees is critical to effect reverse mentoring. This starts with vetting candidates for both. Potential participants should have/need the target knowledge/skills, of course. But they also need to be excited about the idea of taking part in a mentorship, open to ideas and eager to teach and learn, and willing and able to make the commitment that successful mentorship requires.
3. Establish clear guidelines and expectations
Reverse mentoring can be a new experience for both mentors and mentees, so preparation is important. Participants need to understand what is expected on each side, agree on the goals for the relationship and offer a clear commitment to the process. They should also demonstrate a clear understanding of processes, milestones and what to do in case of problems.
4. Train mentors and mentees in their roles
Before beginning any mentorship program, the parties involved must know their roles. Reverse mentorship presents new challenges. It might be difficult for a mentor with less seniority to feel comfortable correcting a senior executive mentee. Provide conversation tips and structures for goal setting. Likewise, seasoned staff may have a hard time remaining quiet and receiving instruction when they are used to leading others. Make sure to provide resources on giving and receiving feedback so both parties feel prepared to interact.
5. Be proactive about communication
Don’t assume that everyone prefers to communicate the same way. Encourage participants to establish the means and frequency of communication throughout. If your participants are both remote workers, this may mean touching base through a dashboard, messaging system, video conferencing or phone call.
6. Choose program goals and objectives wisely
You’ll need to prove to senior leadership that your program is working. The key to measuring success is to choose goals that are easy to measure, e.g., retention of employees who participated in the program as compared with those who didn’t. It’s also important to track other information too, such as changes that are happening as a result of the program and positive feedback, especially from the higher-ups who may be getting mentored for the first time in years. Look at satisfaction of participants, enrollment numbers over time and learnings achieved through the program.
Reverse Mentoring Program Best Practices
Following best practices for your reverse mentoring program will help you reach your goals. These include:
- Start with a small program, learn and iterate, and then scale.
- Set realistic and measurable goals
- Provide easy-to-use tools and channels for participants
- Establish clear expectations for everyone involved
- Offer training to both mentors and mentees so they can make the most of their mentoring partnership
- Create guidelines for communication, including channels and frequency that encourage open communication and active listening
- Establish feedback loops and evaluation checkpoints
Impact of Reverse Mentoring on Employee Connectivity and Engagement
Employee connectivity and engagement are proven benefits of mentoring, and reverse mentoring offers its own unique advantages in these areas. Mentoring fosters close relationships among colleagues, which can make a huge difference in how engaged people are in their work. Reverse mentoring provides the added benefit of pairing people of different generations and backgrounds, forging relationships that may never developed otherwise.
Mentoring also represents an opportunity to learn — for both mentors and mentees. Having the opportunity to grow and develop is another important indicator of engagement for employees of any age and career stage.
Increase in Employee Productivity and Performance
One goal of reverse mentoring is the transfer of knowledge, skills, and perspectives within the company for increased productivity and performance. In this practice, senior employees often learn needed technical skills. But they also gain insight into current trends, get exposure to new perspectives, and gain a better understanding of younger generations. While younger mentors are the “teachers,’ in these situations, they are also able to tap into their mentee’s experience and get a better idea of how the company works as a whole.
The Role of Mentoring Software in Facilitating Connectivity
Chronus is designed to facilitate successful reverse mentoring connections, starting with automated matching. MatchIQ® technology makes it easy to find the best match based on your program’s specific criteria, and users can import data from LinkedIn to quickly set up profiles. Our software also provides admins the ability to create guided plans for both mentors and mentees. This creates structure for the relationship that fosters learning and productivity while making the most of everyone’s time.
Reverse Mentoring Programs for Driving Inclusivity
A growing number of organizations have committed to increasing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in their workplaces, and reverse mentoring can be an important tool in this work.
Benefits of Reverse Mentoring for DEI Strategy
Pairing senior employees with junior employees who can offer personal perspectives on racial and diversity issues contributes to greater understanding, empathy and allyship, while helping to combat unconscious bias and break down stereotypes.
Mentoring Software’s Role in Driving DEI Programs
Chronus simplifies the creation of strong DEI programs by streamlining DEI mentorships. The software’s advanced technology enables fast, effective matching for successful partnerships. It also offers the flexibility to design, configure and create your program based on multiple program formats — such as circles, groups or 1:1 — and run them as part of your organizational program or as a separate dedicated program.
Measuring the Success of Reverse Mentoring Programs
Effective reverse mentoring programs have clear goals as well as well-defined measures of success. Measurability is critical to be able to demonstrate the program’s impact, value and progress over time.
Reverse Mentoring Program Success Metrics and KPIs
Every organization’s reverse mentoring success metrics and KPIs should tie directly to the goals for the program. While each organization’s metrics will be unique, some common areas of measurement can include:
- Acquisition of participants
- Behavior within the program
- Outcomes at an organizational level
These can be broken down to specific KPIs such as retention rates, advancement rates or satisfaction rates.
Mentoring Platform Reporting and Dashboards for ROI Assessment
Chronus’ tracking tools and built-in surveys make it easy to make sure program goals are being met. Our platform provides robust analytical reporting to easily establish benchmarks and track essential success metrics to drive optimal outcomes.
Optimize Reverse Mentoring with Chronus Software
Leveraging Chronus mentoring software can help you customize your reverse mentoring program according to your unique needs. It helps you build best practices into your program from the beginning, streamlining setup and ensuring smooth operations. Chronus also enables you to measure success according to your goals and adjust along the way for steady and visible progress.
With the help of Chronus, you can create a reverse mentoring program that enables you to reap all the benefits, from knowledge and skills transfer, greater inclusion and diversity, increased engagement and retention and more.