Reverse Mentoring: What It Is and Why It’s

Reverse mentoring is an idea that’s been around a while now, but it’s still a somewhat unfamiliar and under-used concept in most companies. Basically, instead of the traditional mentoring structure where a seasoned employee takes a young upstart under their wing and teaches them about the business, reverse mentoring flips the script. In this case the younger employee teaches the older, more experienced employee about all the new-fangled, modern-age tools available to help them keep up with the times.

Learning social media is often one of the main goals of reverse mentoring, but it’s not just about learning how to tweet. In today’s technology-driven business world, mastering social media can have ripple effects that influence many different aspects of your business. The ability to instantly communicate with a wide audience can help boost public relations, support your branding, improve customer care, broaden your sales prospects, and so much more. The following are a few tips for making reverse mentoring work:

Go in with the right attitude

It is important to be very clear about the purpose of the reverse mentor process. If introduced incorrectly, the veteran employee might view it as demeaning, or feel they are relinquishing their hard-earned position and reputation. Explain that the purpose of the program is to learn from each other and tap into each other’s strengths so that in the end, everyone walks away a more skilled employee. Be specific about the goals and make sure all parties have an open mind, mutual respect, and an eagerness to learn.

Emphasize the win-win

Both sides can and should get something out of the reverse mentoring experience. Although their ages and experiences might be on opposite ends of the spectrum, that doesn’t mean the mentor/mentee won’t have anything in common. Working together opens up an opportunity to get to know someone you might not otherwise talk with, except in passing. Not only can everyone learn something, but great bonds can form, and the camaraderie can raise morale and improve production.

Keep open communication

All parties involved must communicate honestly and provide constructive feedback. Sometimes things needs to be explained from a different angle, so each party must actively listen and be patient when exchanging ideas. Everyone will be out of their comfort zone, and some will be learning about something completely foreign to them, so allow time to adjust. There can’t be a power struggle about who knows more; it’s not a competition, it’s a collaboration.

Many companies have found reverse mentoring programs to be successful, and a lot of that success depends on getting the buy-in of top level executives. If your CEO is willing to do it, then it’s likely others will follow. No matter how well you do your job or how experienced you are, you can still get better. True wisdom is knowing that you’ve still got a lot to learn, and just because you didn’t expect to learn it from a 22-year-old, doesn’t make the lesson any less valuable.

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