Reverse Mentoring and its Benefits

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Traditional mentoring

Self-improvement can be intimidating, and personal interactions with other, like in a mentoring relationship might be extraordinarily valuable [1]. In today’s fast-changing world the potential for mentoring, especially if creatively employed, might be an increasingly useful type of relationship [2]. Yet relatively few employees got into a company mentoring program [3]. Traditional mentoring generally takes place between a senior and a junior person in a similar career field [4], a relationship that is hierarchical and one-directional in the sense that the mentor in its expert position carries the power while the newcomer mentee is deemed to receive learning [5].

Reverse mentoring for diversity and organizational success

Reverse mentoring, on the other side, can be defined as “pair[ing] younger, junior employees as mentors with older, senior colleagues as mentees to share knowledge” ([6], p. 569). Jack Welch in 1999 made this approach popular when using it in GE [7]. It is the first time that four or five generation with distinct values work in the same workplaces and have to manage related generational tensions ([8]; [9]). Reverse (respectively reciprocal) mentoring may be promising transfer processes to support global expatriate female managers as they were found to receive less monitoring than male and domestic colleagues [10]. Cross-racial reverse mentoring is another example of engaging diversity to increase organizational success [6].

Benefits for the employees

Reverse mentoring was found to benefit older adults with reduced social isolation, improved self-efficacy, and increased technological understanding, and younger colleagues can progress their teaching and communication skills [11]. Intriguingly, by collaboratively fostering the understanding of each generations qualities, inter-generational intelligence can be built [9]. Vitality, enthusiasm, and creativity are predominantly represented by the younger, lower levels of organizations; not surprising when remembering the evidence that toddlers, in general, are creative, compared to the only 2% of 44-year-olds [12]. Reverse mentoring is promising in generating new ideas [13], which is vital in valuing the human capital and use it for innovation and competitiveness as required for learning organizations [14]. Lane (2018) speculates that this effect might be the more pronounced, the bigger and the more global a firm is [7].

HR supported implementation for improved employee retention

In a study in the field of academic medicine, it was found that half of the recipients of unsatisfactory mentoring did genuinely consider quit the firm, while positive mentoring experiences reduced this number to 14% [2]. In another study reverse mentoring predicted increased affective commitment potentially decreasing turnover rates among millennial employees [15]. While informal settings may take pressure away from younger persons mentoring their superiors [16], more formal mentoring provides for clear objectives and plans how to achieve them [17]. It is essential that older leaders get the courage [13] to open up, demonstrate humility, and enter into egalitarian relationships [18]. Ideally, such openness and the diversification of the workforce [19] through reverse mentoring is systematically supported by HR too [20].

References

[1] Bollig, J. (2016). What Company Do You Keep?. Superintendent, 32.

[2] Disch, J. (2018). Rethinking Mentoring. Critical Care Medicine, 46(3), 437-441. doi:10.1097/CCM.0000000000002914

[3] Bergelson, M. (2014). Developing Tomorrow’s Leaders: Innovative Approaches to Mentorship. People & Strategy, 37(2), 18-22.

[4] Ellis, R. (2013). Reverse mentoring: Letting millennials lead the way. T And D, 67(9), 13.

[5] Morris, L. V. (2017). Reverse Mentoring: Untapped Resource in the Academy?. INNOVATIVE HIGHER EDUCATION -NEW YORK-, (4). 285.

[6] Marcinkus, Murphy W. (2012). Reverse mentoring at work: Fostering cross-generational learning and developing millennial leaders. Human Resource Management, 51(4), 549-573. doi:10.1002/hrm.21489

[7] Lane, G. (2018). REVERSE MENTORING. Professional Manager, 7-8.

[8] Stephenson, G. (2014). Breaking traditions with reciprocal mentoring. Nursing Management, 45(6), 10-12. doi:10.1097/01.NUMA.0000449766.91747.77

[9] Meister, J. C. (2017). 4 Ways Companies Are Developing Millennials for the New World Of Work. Communication World, 1-3.

[10] Harvey, M., McIntyre, N., Thompson,  H. J., & Moeller, M. (2009). Mentoring global female managers in the global marketplace: traditional, reverse, and reciprocal mentoring. International Journal Of Human Resource Management, 20(6), 1344-1361. doi:10.1080/09585190902909863

[11] Breck, B., Dennis, C., & Leedahl, S. (2018). Implementing reverse mentoring to address social isolation among older adults. Journal Of Gerontological Social Work, 1-13. doi:10.1080/01634372.2018.1448030

[12] Walton, C. (2018). Lifting the lid on creativity. Training Journal, 24-26.

[13] Gardiner, B. (2015). RBA embraces competition and reverse mentoring to drive innovation. Cio (13284045), 1.

[14] Barrett, B. (2013). Creating Virtual Mentoring Programs for Developing Intellectual Capital. Proceedings Of The International Conference On Intellectual Capital, Knowledge Management & Organizational Learning, 47-53.

[15] Catrin, H. (2017). Affective Commitment to Organizations: A Comparison Study of Reverse Mentoring Versus Traditional Mentoring Among Millennials. Binus Business Review, Vol 8, Iss 2, Pp 157-165 (2017), (2), 157. doi:10.21512/bbr.v8i2.3666

[16] Pieters, B. (2011). Reverse Mentoring: Fresh Perspectives from Future Leaders. Profiles In Diversity Journal, 13(6), 68.

[17] Jane, B. (2014). Reverse mentoring becomes a two-way street: case study of a mentoring project for IT competence. Development And Learning In Organizations: An International Journal, (3), 13. doi:10.1108/DLO-01-2014-0001

[18] Thoman, R. (2009). Reverse mentoring: How young leaders can transform the church and why we should let them. Christian Education Journal, 6(2), 432-436.

[19] Holden, L., Rumala, B., Carson, P., & Siegel, E. (2014). Promoting careers in health care for urban youth: What students, parents and educators can teach us. Information Services & Use, 34(3/4), 355-366. doi:10.3233/ISU-140761

[20] Chen, Y. (2013). Effect of Reverse Mentoring on Traditional Mentoring Functions. Leadership & Management In Engineering, 13(3), 199-208. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)LM.1943-5630.0000227

About mathias sager

Independent researcher, artist, social entrepreneur, and leadership and strategy advisor I was born in Zurich in 1975 and grew up in Switzerland. Currently, I’m living in Tokyo. I love open-minded people everywhere and the passion to working relentlessly for developing human potential, which is an overarching theme throughout all his work. I have extensive experience in leadership and management, organizational psychology research, and learning & development practice. I have worked as a teacher, a leadership trainer, as well as a senior manager responsible for client relationships, counseling, and virtual teams around the world. Also, I’m a social entrepreneur and serving as a strategy and leadership advisor in different ways. My goal is to inspire with interdisciplinary, innovative, and cross-cultural approaches to personal and professional development for the people’s individual well-being and common good alike. Continuously learning himself and keen to help, I appreciate any questions or feedback you may have at any time. Please connect here on any social media, as well as per direct email goodthings@mathias-sager.com.
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