Opinion

7 utterly brilliant benefits of reverse mentoring

We at Pure are big believers in the power of mentoring. In fact, we recommend and include mentoring on our Women’s Leadership Programme, to help more women find executive jobs in the East of England.
 
Traditional mentoring is becoming more popular with younger people seeking a more experienced, trusted advisor. But another form of mentoring is emerging – reverse mentoring.
 
Created by the former General Motors CEO, Jack Welch, in the late 90s to help top management become internet savvy, reverse mentoring involves younger employees supporting older workers in enhancing their skills.
 
The benefits are numerous when a junior employee gets together with someone higher in the ranks to update their expertise. In fact, this combination is proving to be a huge success at major corporations including Cisco Systems, Proctor & Gamble and General Electric.
 
The key to reverse mentoring is doing away with any out-moded ideas that younger people have nothing to teach senior staff. They actually bring vast amounts of knowledge of the latest innovations and up-coming cultural trends. This is extremely valuable to a senior worker who has little or no exposure to the younger generation.
 
Curious? Great! Read on for some of the benefits that reverse mentoring can bring to both mentor and mentee.
 
1.Learn about future trends, today
As employees move up the career ladder they may lose touch with new and emerging technology. Yet they can learn from younger people who have grown up with digital media that’s forever evolving. Social media and the concept of sharing information is the obvious example. And since industries are now so reliant on such new trends and behaviours, it’s crucial that decision makers understand how it works so they can engage with customers, and stave off competition.
 
2.Experience beyond peer groups
Both the mentor and mentee can benefit from working closely with someone who works outside of each other’s peer groups. They see life through very different eyes, and both learn how to build relationships and communicate with colleagues at different stages of their careers. 
 
3.Shaping our future leaders
Although it’s the mentor’s job to share knowledge with the older mentee, the younger person also benefits. They have a ‘hotline’ to the director they’re working with, and can learn the key skills of leadership, putting them a steps ahead of other junior colleagues. The mentee also feels the reward of helping to shape a potential future business leader.
 
4.Savings on development
If your organisation is limited on training and development budget, this more informal approach could be ideal. It’s based on the relaxed style of mentor and mentee getting together now and again for coffee or chatting via Skype. With agreed objectives, this can be a great way of learning without busting the all-important balance sheets!
 
5.Senior mentees get a break from the routine
Since reverse mentoring can be a relaxed affair, it gives the busy mentee a welcome break from the norm. It takes the executive out from behind their desk, and gives them an injection of inspiration from someone with sparky energy and fresh ambition. 
 
6.Reaching outside your organisation
The mentee doesn’t have to come from your own organisation. Personal contacts or networking groups for young professionals can help bring mentors and mentees together. This can help both parties take on new approaches and perspectives, developed in different corporate cultures.
 
7.Raising professional profile
Younger mentors may be the ones offering most of the knowledge, however, they can make it a mutual exchange by being proactive and asking their mentee for career advice and opportunities to network with other senior employees. The mentor’s own teams will probably respect their director for doing something about staying in touch with new innovations and learning new skills.