With multiple generations at the workforce and the increasingly large age gap between those leading organizations and those following, reverse mentoring is today an essential part of employee engagement. As a concept reverse mentoring sounds like a must-have for every organization. Putting the principles to work takes a lot of effort due to the seemingly formidable barriers and assumptions.
For example, leaders can find it tough to take direct feedback and ‘learn’ from someone junior in rank. Employees who are keen to mentor may be intimidated in the presence of leaders. Internal communications can play a key role in making reverse mentoring a win-win for both parties. Here are some perspectives that can get your program the right results.
Map interests with the business need: Your role as the internal communicator is to understand the needs from both parties and make a logical connection to the organization’s goals. For example, look up your annual employee engagement index for clues to how leaders are perceived and what do employees expect more from leadership. Identify skills and capabilities that leaders need most. Figure out what will move the needle in terms of your objectives and then map personalities and interests with reverse mentors.
Provide a framework for engagement: While you don’t want to over engineer the program it helps to put a framework that gives the leaders and the mentors a build a rhythm to their interactions. The framework can include potential ways to collaborate, exchange ideas, participate in common forums, ‘shadow’ each other and measure the value and impact of their engagement.
Facilitate the ‘handshake’: I would recommend that you spend time with each mentor and explain what they can expect and benefit from the interaction. For example, the benefits of being a mentor include getting closer to the leadership, learning what it takes to run a business or organization, understanding challenges and perspectives of leaders among others. Likewise, a young mentor can help a leader learn more about preferences and choices of youngsters, what and how they can be communicated to, the kind of opportunities they seek to build careers and make progress within an organization. It will help that the mentor goes prepared for the meeting by reading up about the leader and the business as well as listing potential questions to ask.
Get feedback early: As the internal communicator steering the program you must aim to get feedback on the value each of them took from the interaction. Learn more about the ways they prefer keeping in touch – face to face, online or forums among other avenues. Keep an eye for opportunities they can both engage with in the future.
Communicate progress: As the group makes progress you can help other employees learn more on the program by inviting blogs from the participants. You can highlight key take-aways from the initiative and create a forum for dialogue. Last but not least, celebrate the success stories that emerge.
Have you implemented a reverse mentoring initiative? Got any insights to share? Do post them here.