In mentoring, experienced workers typically help their less experienced colleagues using their knowledge and help them to develop professionally and personally and achieve their goals. Mentoring is very versatile – but what if you tried it the other way around? What if it weren’t the more experienced, older person who passed on their knowledge, but vice versa? This is where reverse mentoring, in which the senior is coached by the junior, starts.
Digital natives as mentors
This collaborative form of work, in which younger employees act as mentors to older ones, is primarily found in the knowledge transfer of technical know-how, digital communication and social media applications in practice. As their name suggests, the generation of digital natives is great at bringing digital communications managers up to date. The latest applications and methods that facilitate both private and everyday work, as well as new recruiting and leadership opportunities, are just a few examples of current topics in a reverse-learning hierarchy.
Win-win situation for managers, newcomers and companies
As long as both sides engage in a learning relationship based on the motto “you can learn from everyone,” reverse mentoring brings with it many benefits. These are not limited to the transfer of knowledge, since cross-hierarchy exchange offers employees a more holistic view of the company through a change in perspective. Older employees can selectively acquire new knowledge and get to know their colleagues from generations Y and Z as well as their needs and demands in the workplace. Mentoring increases motivation and promotes cross-generational, cross-departmental networking within the company. The reverse-learning hierarchy offers newcomers and trainees the opportunity to gain insight into strategic decision-making processes through contact with middle and senior management. In doing so, they develop their leadership skills and assume responsibility in the company at the beginning of their careers to deepen and pass on their own competencies.
Reverse mentoring can do even more
In addition to the knowledge transfer of specific topics, such as digitalization and social media, reverse mentoring offers a whole host of other benefits.
- Intelligent management: Leaders gain understanding on how generations Y and Z want to be led
- Appreciation for the younger generations: Less experienced employees gain appreciation and visibility in the company through their role as mentors
- Expansion of the company’s internal network: Mentees are in contact with senior management, which increase their career opportunities
- Employer branding: Stand out from other companies through innovative knowledge transfer
- More diversity for a better corporate culture: Exchanges between old and young can eliminate prejudices against different generations and improve corporate culture
- Sensitivity to future topics: Turning the learning hierarchy upside down so that the influence of younger generations can help identify future topics and trends more quickly
Revolutionize the learning culture
Companies face factors such as internationalization and digitalization with increasing complexity and dynamics in their daily work. Nevertheless, to ensure business success, changes in the market must be identified early on and appropriate measures taken. Companies must therefore be learning organizations that are adaptive to internal and external stimuli in order to ensure continuous development and a lasting learning process in the company. Reverse mentoring offers a valuable option to revolutionize and democratize the transfer of knowledge and the use of internal know-how. Corporate goals should be achieved by self-determined, individual objectives between mentors and mentees and in a team.
Leadership development of a different kind with promising prospects!
A guest post by Belinda Spörk.