Mentoring – passing on knowledge and skills to newer or less experienced colleagues – has been around for decades. It has served businesses well in terms of helping colleagues learn the ropes. Now a new, dynamic approach to mentoring has turned this idea on its head. Reverse mentorship is the innovative practice bringing mutual benefits at all levels.
The Evolution of Mentorship
Mentoring in its traditional form is the exchange of ideas and transfer of knowledge and experiences between colleagues, the mentor and mentee. The mentor is typically someone more experienced and often older than the one who is learning i.e. the mentee. Mentoring would traditionally focus on tailored guidance and learning from experience rather than through book learning or attending lectures. Reverse mentoring has come about because of rapidly advancing technology and working practices typically embraced by younger people necessitating a fundamental change in expectations. Cross-generational collaboration emphasises the benefits of continuous learning for all employees whether junior or senior.
Understanding Reverse Mentorship
The definition of reverse mentorship is simply one individual who is considered less experienced or younger who shares knowledge and skills with a more experienced or older individual. An example could be a student doctor mentoring a more senior doctor on new technology or practices. This could be done in order to enhance the care of patients or improve data recording. Reverse mentoring can also be useful in helping directors or senior leaders, who often miss out on what is actually happening within their organisation.
This especially benefits those who have a separate working environment from the junior workforce to understand what is happening throughout the business. It gives them ground-up information from someonel with a greater insight in shop-floor practices or work-based conflicts, so helping to facilitate necessary changes in organisational practices. Modern mentorship is based more on the idea of the reciprocal fostering of growth between parties rather than on seniority or experience.
Breaking Down Generational Barriers
The traditional idea of older individuals being the source of superior and unchallenged knowledge and junior colleagues being somehow inferior is thankfully rapidly disappearing. Now, enlightened individuals have ann understanding of how younger people or new joiners can bring with them a wealth of knowledge and skill sets which benefit an organisation. A rapidly-evolving use of reverse mentoring is gaining traction in providing education at all levels around the challenges faced by minority groups. This can help to improve diversity and inclusion within workplaces. For example, a reverse mentor who is part of group such as BAME or LGBTQ+ can provide a unique understanding of the challenges and how to overcome them.
Benefits of Reverse Mentorship
Reverse mentoring is proving to have big impacts across all kinds of organisations in opening up channels between the generations. It helps to share learning, knowledge and tech-savvy skills. Plus, gives those who previously wouldn’t have had any input the opportunity to teach and advance themselves alongside the chance to interact with senior or executive individuals they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to reach. Those more senior or previously more ‘knowledgeable’ benefit from gaining valuable insights into emerging trends and ideas as well as new skills. Reverse mentoring also promotes transparency and greater freedom at all levels to put forward ideas.
Leaders, no matter how senior can always benefit from the opportunity to learn and grow. Plus, a culture of continuous learning and mutual collaboration within a workforce can become a powerful ally for success. Reverse mentoring can be effective in gaining insights and awareness of challenges facing minority sections of an organisation and into how an organisation is progressing. Knowledge equals power equals success.