Mentoring programs have traditionally been a popular way to nurture less experienced employees — but they aren’t the only way companies are now providing personalized training for employees.
In recent years, another technique — reverse mentoring — has been gaining ground in the business world.
In reverse mentoring programs, younger workers provide guidance for more mature employees. Technology, often second nature to millennials who grew up using tech tools, is a frequent focus.
Much like traditional mentoring programs, having younger employees counsel older ones can produce a number of beneficial social, instructional and engagement effects.
Being asked to participate in a mentoring program can show employees their employer views them as valuable assets. Workers of different generations get to know each other and adapt to different work techniques. In the process, knowledge is transferred, enhancing employees’ individual skill sets.
To ensure both younger and older employees are getting the most out of their involvement, though, programs need to be carefully structured and maintained.
The following suggestions can help your organization set up a successful reverse mentoring program:
Establish an environment that’s conducive to sharing
When insurance provider The Hartford created a reverse mentoring program to enhance employees’ understanding of social media platform use, the company asked mentoring candidates’ references if the individuals could keep information confidential, which the company felt would reassure mentees.
The Hartford also tried to align mentors and mentees’ hobbies, backgrounds and other elements to help participants build a relationship. To avoid conflicts of interest, the company required mentors to be multiple levels below their assigned mentee and in a different function or line of business, according to a report from The Sloan Center on Aging & Work.
Encourage reciprocal mentoring
Mentoring programs may be structured to teach experienced executives new tech or other skills, but that doesn't mean senior managers and leadership members can’t share knowledge with the younger employees they’re paired with. Building a framework that allows for that to happen — such as incorporating a monthly lunch in which mentors and mentees can discuss career objectives and other topics — can help ensure both parties are obtaining useful information.
Tally (and use) metrics
Establish a system to obtain regular input from participants to help you gauge what’s working — and, just as importantly, gain insight into younger workers’ opinions, desires and goals. The information can help you tailor programs, incentive packages and company culture efforts to increase retention among that age group.
For more tips on how to handle mentoring in the workplace, training for employees and other experience-enhancing initiatives, read our blog posts on building the best mentoring program, bridging the skills gap and ways to retain older workers.