The Benefits of Reverse Mentoring

The Benefits of Reverse Mentoring

Organizations that foster a well-executed reverse-mentoring program experience multiple benefits including enhanced productivity, talent development and increased levels of retention.

Finding and retaining top talent is currently at the forefront of every executive’s mind. How can organizations maintain their core competencies and competitive advantage while sustaining an organizational culture that is conducive to increased levels of productivity and life satisfaction?

The answer is mentoring. The essence of successful and impactful mentoring is building a professional relationship to work together toward a shared goal. In the mentoring process, both the mentor and the mentee listen and learn together. Mentors share their experiences and challenges, which, of course, opens the door for the mentee to share their accomplishments, challenges and concerns. These experiences often validate the mentee as they become aware that they have things to learn and teach. The mentor listens, understands and provides their business and life’s insights. Both have knowledge that should be shared.

This brings us to our topic of today: reverse mentoring. An inverted methodology to conventional mentoring, reverse mentoring is a cost-effective and innovative tool that allows a subordinate team member to engage with a tenured team member in the mentoring process. In many mentoring relationships, reverse mentoring may be happening. But if you’re a mentor to someone thinking that you can’t take anything away from time with your mentee, think again.

The reverse mentoring process typically allows an often-younger team member to serve as a mentor to a senior executive or more tenured team member to share knowledge in the areas of technological competence and subject-matter advancements. At the same time, it furnishes a unique generational perspective and creates the opportunity for mutual learning and development. According to the Harvard Business Review, this approach has precedent: In the late 1990s, GE’s Jack Welch used reverse mentoring to teach senior executives about the Internet.

Organizations that foster a well-executed reverse-mentoring program experience multiple benefits including enhanced productivity, talent development and increased levels of retention. Take, for example, Pershing, a financial services company that implemented a reverse-mentoring program in 2018. Following the implementation of the company-wide initiative, Pershing experienced a 96% retention rate for the 77 millennials who were involved in the program. That’s important as millennials represent the largest generation in the workforce, according to Forbes.

Additionally, companies that emphasize reverse mentoring develop their leadership channel, cultivate healthy and dynamic intergenerational relationships and increased levels of cultural awareness, diversity and innovation. Estee Lauder’s CEO Global Reverse Mentor Program, founded in 2015 by President and CEO Fabrizio Freda, is a great example of this. The program takes young talent who are “empowered, engaged and making an impact on the business” to share valuable insights and perspectives, as well as connect trends to leaders’ priority topics, the company says. Today, the company has 650-plus reverse-mentor participants globally and more than 300 senior-leadership participants.

At Northwood, we have invited members of our leadership team into classrooms to discuss our students’ thoughts on bolstering undergrad enrollment. The interaction between our leaders and students was phenomenal because both groups benefited from participating in the experience. Our students were able to share what type of message resonates with college-age students, and our leadership team was enlightened by our student’s thoughts and ideas. An additional benefit was our students feeling valued, appreciated and cared for. Because of these benefits, we continue to integrate reverse mentoring into our best practices at Northwood.

Reverse mentoring also engenders a culture of lifelong organizational learning by encouraging two diverse backgrounds to interact and learn together. This creates a healthy environment, which leads to increased productivity and employee self-esteem and self-confidence—all essential ingredients to your team’s competitive advantage.
In turn, the health of an organization’s team is a noteworthy forecaster of organizational productivity. Those with innovative health-promoting practices benefit in terms of increased revenues, market saturation, life satisfaction and return on investment. When an organization fosters a dynamic relationship between its experienced and less experienced team members, it increases the commitment of its less experienced team members, which could lead to opportunities for personal and professional growth within the dynamics of your team.

Reverse mentoring is truly a win-win endeavor—it builds talent and career paths and supports the organization’s succession planning. Mentorship aids individuals in connecting their deeper motivations and values to their careers. Organizations that are searching for a competitive advantage and a dynamic organizational culture should consider the benefits associated with reverse mentoring.

Organizations are encouraged to contact the University of the Aftermarket for assistance in defining a vibrant organizational culture. Get in touch with Dr. Thomas Litzinger at [email protected].

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