Reverse Mentoring: a generational exchange.
Learning and teaching. Teaching and learning. The mutual exchange of experiences and notions between different generations is an extremely interesting as well as important process of personal and professional growth.
Years ago this process was univocal. A junior would be trained in the field by a Senior, i.e., a Mentor who would pass on to him his know-how, experience, modus operandi.
Today, the process is two-way; juniors, who are digital natives, bring their experiences, motivations, and can make valuable contributions to Seniors, and can act as Mentors with their modus operandi and their way of interpreting the work-life balance relationship.
The specific name is Reverse Mentoring: the process by which young people, often, possessing less experience but with strong digital expertise, help in the practical act senior figures to familiarize themselves with technology or processes related to the digital world. The perspective is always aimed at exchange, where the young person’s studies and the senior’s background of experience meet and merge to increase awareness of the world of work in both in a functional way.
The term mentoring comes from the figure of Mentor, a friend of Odysseus and trainer of Telemachus at the time of his father’s departure for Troy. In the 1990s the word mentoring was juxtaposed with the word reverse, cwhich translated means “reverse,” and which, precisely, refers to what has been said so far.
Reverse Mentoring, through a relationship of trust and collaboration, allows the Senior to return a range of useful knowledge in the field of digital sometimes omitted. On the other hand, usually, those with more experience should be able to preside over a problem more effectively due to skills and notions acquired during a long professional career.Today, seniors must accept to study and experiment with new digital tools, which are often fundamental to face the challenges of organizations.
This process and its expansion, in membership, has occurred with the increasing development of technology, especially since the early 1990s with the opening to the World Wide Web, where a digital divide has emerged between junior and senior figures within companies, i.e., a gap in knowledge and behavior in the use or understanding of new technologies.
A Reverse Mentoring program can take place through formal meetings between juniors and seniors, with each engaging the other in training on different aspects of the work. For example, seniors may convey sound principles for achieving project outcomes such as formulating and setting an effective goal. Within an organization, this practice can become a useful tool for improving various processes such as:
- talent management in order to grow them and, at the same time, to learn from them what they have assimilated during their period of study or practice at other organizations;
- employer branding linked especially to Linkedin;
- the promotion of diversity;
- the bridging of the digital gap;
- leadership development;
- the promotion of the culture of Longlife Learning and for this see our most recent article https://www.ambire.net/il-ruolo-strategico-del-lifelong-learning/
The benefits of Reverse Mentoring can be amazing: just think of the motivational impact on senior figures who have the dual opportunity to enhance their experience and acquire new digital skills. Being at the forefront of transferring one’s skills and notions to new recruits means putting oneself back in the game, consolidating one’s role and expertise while also gaining greater visibility.
Another aspect not to be underestimated is the increased retention of Millennials. Reverse mentoring programs provide Millennials with the transparency and recognition they are seeking from management. According to Gerry Tamburro, former CEO of BNY Mellon’s Pershing, this mode of intergenerational exchange has helped the executive committee not only be more transparent, but also seek input from people throughout the organization.
From a business perspective, this exchange allows for greater integration and encourages the “liquid” diffusion of knowledge and experience, mitigating the sense of intergenerational competition.
The main reason why reverse mentoring programs fail is that managers do not prioritize the relationship; after a couple of cancelled sessions the momentum quickly wanes. It is the youth trainers who should lead the program by sharing best practices. Research shows that without training, only one-third of mentor-learner relationships are successful, as it increases to two-thirds with training.
From a strategic Longlife Learning, perspective, the Reverse Mentoring methodology will become increasingly central because it is an effective internal tool for reskilling individuals and a given organization.
For us at Ambire, the concept and application of Reverse Mentoring is fundamental as it is a relationship of trust and proximity that effectively supports orientation and growth: our young talents contribute not only to bring value within the Organization with their ability to see things in an innovative way and without pre-established schemes and manage, where possible, to increase awareness about the digital world with the news of the moment, allowing Ambire benefit company to be always up-to-date to remain competitive and smart.