When people think about having a career mentor, they most likely think about connecting with someone in the field who has more experience and seniority. And for good reason: people with professional mentors are more likely to set (and achieve!) goals, get promoted, and move into leadership roles during the course of their careers.
And while it's always valuable to learn from those with more experience than you, there's another model of mentorship that's catching on in companies and benefitting employees at all levels of an organization.
It's called reverse mentorship, and it has the potential to have a positive impact on employee engagement and organizational culture.
What is reverse mentoring?
In reverse mentoring, a junior employee is paired up with a more senior member of an organization. Senior might refer to age, or it might refer to someone who has been at the company longer than their mentor.
Whereas traditional mentorship tends to focus on the more senior person providing guidance and expertise, reverse mentorship provides the more junior person with an opportunity to share their skills and expertise. In this dynamic, the senior member has a safe and built-in opportunity to "upskill," usually in the digital or technology space. At the same time, the junior member has an opportunity to learn more about the company's history and their mentee's path to their job.
It's important that these relationships don't develop into a "concierge tech support" dynamic. The key to reverse mentoring is that it assumes that both members of the pair have something to teach the other person and provides a structured space for people to collaborate in this way.
Does reverse mentoring help companies?
Reverse mentoring may sound great in theory, but it's fair to wonder: does this even make a difference? Initial data from organizations that have implemented this mentoring model paints an encouraging picture.
According to Employee Benefits News:
In 2021, pharmaceutical group Johnson & Johnson implemented a Reverse Mentoring initiative to drive the adoption of tech inside of their organization, according to a recent case study from LinkedIn.
As a result, 88% of their senior leadership team described the initiative as a "positive and unique personal experience." The same year, cosmetics company Estee Lauder officially launched their reverse mentorship program and has reported an overwhelmingly positive outcome, especially for their younger employees.
Why consider reverse mentoring?
By 2025, Gen Z will comprise 27% of the total workforce, and it will be the most diverse generation in the workforce. In general, research indicates that while thinking about their own professional journeys, members of Gen Z value:
An intentional commitment to advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging
Fair and transparent pay
A flexible and supportive company culture
The opportunity to focus on their mental and physical health
Purpose above salary
These reasons make a compelling case to consider finding ways to implement reverse mentoring for yourself or your organization. While reverse mentorship is not a "magic bullet," it does give Gen Z members of an organization an opportunity to be seen and heard while connecting them to the larger purpose and mission of a company. Because Gen Z is so inherently diverse, reverse mentoring also offers an innovative way to approach building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture. Taken together, reverse mentoring may help pave the way for smooth intergenerational collaboration, as mentors and mentees can leverage their relationships as they work together on projects.
Looking for guidance as you respond to shifts in workforce demographics? Contact the Robin S. Weingast & Associates Team to find out how we can help!