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National Mentoring Month: connecting a workforce through ‘’reverse mentoring’’

January is National Mentoring Month – the perfect time for us to come together and shine a spotlight on workplace mentoring.

This month is a dedicated time to come together and learn about different types of coaching. So, for this year’s National Mentoring month, we’re going to be discussing ‘’reverse mentoring’’. Unlike the traditional mentoring model, reverse mentoring is when a younger or more junior individual mentors someone more senior than them.

Since 1999, when Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric (GE), founded the practice as a way of teaching senior staff about the internet, we’re witnessing more companies implement reverse mentoring programmes. Now it’s become a popular technique for companies to learn from younger people to help integrate new practices into their business model, or to understand different experiences individuals have in the workplace.

Why is reverse mentoring becoming popular?

Reverse mentoring is a great way for companies or hiring managers to show candidates that they’re willing to listen to younger people and more marginalised employees. Different people and generations have different perspectives and experiences; therefore, it is important for companies to gain a deeper understanding of this to help them become more competitive and attract new talent.

For example, a person from an ethnic minority background or an individual with a disability will experience work-life differently, whilst a younger person might have more expertise with new technologies and social trends. It’s important for companies and employees who have spent a longer time in the workforce to learn from those around them. It’sonly through doing this that companies can transform and implement new practices that will help to attract younger or more marginalised talent and for older colleagues to develop skills needed for the modern working world.

It’s also a fantastic way for seasoned employees to take the time to know junior team members that they may not usually interact with. By allowing new relationships to form, you can help bridge the generation gap and break down stereotypes both parties may have. This framework helps workers find common ground, allows new conversations to happen, encourages collaboration and embraces the ideas and opinions of all employees, regardless of position. It can even help make your company stronger and more resilient.

For the younger mentor, it’s a fantastic opportunity to meet employers, form connections with those in the industry and get hands on experience for their future. It also offers mentees a fresh perspective on the company’s business, strategy and culture or any challenges they may face.

So, how do you do it right?

  1. Have clear expectations, set goals, and create a plan

Like any mentoring programme, it’s important that both the participant and the business involved set their own goals and create a plan. This ensures success for both parties and is the best way for all to get the most out of the practice.

Setting expectations at the start means that everyone understands the aims of the programme, what it will entail, what they can gain from it, and how it will benefit them and their workforce.

When setting goals, think about what you want to accomplish and how to make this happen. For example, the mentee may need help learning how to use a new piece of software. Throughout the process, it’s important to track progress toward those goals. This will keep the programme targeted and will help you to measure outcomes at the end.

Once expectations are set and goals are established, create a plan. This will provide a framework and a guide for the duration of the mentoring programme.

  1. Pair matches carefully

Compatibility is crucial to the success of the programme. Reverse mentoring will crumble if participants are not paired well, or if you choose people who do not want to be involved.

Before you start matchmaking, send a questionnaire or survey to employees, or simply talk to them to see who would benefit and spot those who want to take part.

When pairing, take into consideration interpersonal skills and the backgrounds of both the mentor and mentee. For example, if the goal is to become more culturally aware, match two people with very different skillsets or backgrounds.

To remove bias, involve several people from around the organisation when pairing individuals. You can also use an automated matching platform that allows the mentor and mentee to select their match based on responses to questions about their goals, aspirations and interests.

  1. Give and accept feedback

As someone more senior in a company, it may be difficult to accept feedback from a junior employee. However, it’simportant that you have an open mind and take feedback seriously as it will help for both personal and organisational growth.

On the other hand, it can be difficult for the junior mentor to provide constructive criticism to the mentee. To overcome this, give a training session to the mentor beforehand and make it clear that they are allowed to provide feedback as part of their role.

At Steps To Work, we’re committed to equality and diversity and strive to ensure that our workforce is diverse and our recruitment practices are inclusive. We recently worked with the Transformation West Midlands Reverse Mentoring Scheme, supporting students and employers implement reverse mentoring programmes. Learn more about one of the participants, Jyoti’s experience with reverse mentoring, and how she benefited here.