The reverse mentoring phenomenon may have started at GE more than 20 years ago, but it has garnered renewed vigor and importance in the modern age. This practice pairs a less tenured employee with an executive, most often to teach executives technological skills and deepen their understanding of diversity.
The subject matter and positive outcomes of reverse mentoring have been expanded considerably for today's workforce. While initiated for the benefit of the tenured employee, these mentoring relationships enable skill building and strengthen engagement and motivation for both parties. Mentoring is no longer a one-way system of developing the mentee, now mentoring relationships facilitate learning for both sides.
Here are three of the ways individuals and organizations can benefit:
1. Updated skill sets
Less tenured employees may be just out of school or taking on a different role to adapt to the changing business landscape. New employees can share a fresh perspective with more tenured employees, such as the latest thinking and insights on new and evolving subject matter. Additionally, mentored skills might be strictly technological, or they may tie into the company's core products and services and, therefore, have a much more central impact.
The mentor's skills can be enriched as well, by gleaning lessons learned from the tenured employee's longer career in the field.
2. Introduction to emerging technology
Gaining tenure in an organization means mastering established standard processes. Pairing up with a less senior employee with different technological skills can raise a senior professional's awareness of what's possible by breaking out of their routines. For example, utilizing technology can help senior professionals create efficiencies in their day-today. Less tenured employees may have experience with tools not yet prevalent in the organization, and they may also be more comfortable streamlining processes in innovative ways to achieve desired functionality.
In working with tenured employees to teach them technological tools, the less tenured employees are exposed to the organization's practices, products, services, and systems in a very concrete way. The exchange of knowledge allows the mentors to feel like a valued part of the team much earlier than they might have otherwise, motivating them to speak up when they see opportunities to improve the organization.
3. Cultural competence
Less senior employees can bring their direct experience with the broader culture to tenured employees. Employees with less tenure may be more familiar with online communities and may have diverse backgrounds in other ways. They can educate their senior peers about various subcultures—how people might think differently, act differently, and value different things.
This can be important to supervisors, software development teams, communications professionals, and others who may have limited direct exposure to these constituencies. When engaging in conversations about subculture characteristics, the newer employee is, in turn, likely to gain a deeper understanding of the company culture as it currently exists.
Fostering growth and collaboration: The transformative power of reverse mentoring in building stronger workforce bonds and enhancing performance
Successful mentoring builds long-term relationships. Less tenured employees in reverse mentoring arrangements do much more than provide a quick tutorial; they are counted on to share a different perspective or build a valued skill set. The best of these relationships deeply impact both mentee and mentor. These pairs learn new skills, develop relationships, and contribute to projects. These outcomes have all been shown to positively impact employee engagement and facilitate creative problem-solving to adapt to new business landscapes, ultimately improving overall performance and motivation.
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