Reverse mentoring schemes: Why they’re important and how to set up your own

Mentoring has long been a cornerstone of talent development, allowing experienced members of staff to impart their wisdom to junior colleagues with the overall goal of bringing through the next generation of star players. Although this established practice continues to offer real value, in the modern workplace mentoring no longer goes one way. Increasingly, forward-thinking employers are turning the relationship on its head and allowing senior members of staff to learn from their subordinates as part of reverse mentoring schemes.
But how exactly do they work? And what can be the key benefits?  

What is reverse mentoring?

A reverse mentoring scheme is a pairing between two members of an organisation, from different teams and at different levels of experience. In essence, the two should be paired because they can learn from one another. Reverse mentoring schemes can allow your employees to exchange skills and expertise across the business, alongside giving all ages and roles the chance to get exposure to different areas of the company. 
Allowing your staff to get to know different members of the business can help to grow their networks, and create professional relationships that may not have happened naturally. 
With more generation-X employees reaching managerial positions, a mentoring scheme can help to encourage a learning culture across the business. Generation-X managers have proven themselves to be efficient, driven, and innovative, but they are also known for pushing to get work done as quickly as possible. So, encouraging the relationship between generation-X, senior team members, and millennials, will encourage professionals to share experience and knowledge, whilst creating a harmonious working environment, once they learn how different generations work. 

How to set up a mentoring scheme

There is no such thing as a ‘cookie-cutter’ mentoring scheme. Businesses should be looking at their model, identifying the challenges they are facing and determining whether or not a mentoring scheme would help with these. 
KPMG is an example of an organisation that has used a mentoring scheme to build relationships and share personal experiences. KPMG wanted to help its teams interconnect, allowing them to progress within their organisation. It focused on pairing senior employees with people from diverse backgrounds to encourage diversity and inclusion across the firm overall. 
Partnering employees from different generations is a great way to ensure everyone has access to fresh perspectives, and also encourages cross-team interaction and development at all levels. Adopting a ‘never stop learning’ attitude from the senior levels down can help to inspire individuals to do more than their day job, whilst learning from members of the business that have a different experience from their own. 

Key lessons when implementing a reverse mentoring programme

As with all new programmes that are introduced, it can be difficult to know where to start or what to avoid. Here are some key tips to consider when implementing a reverse mentoring programme in your business.
Set clear goals
It is important to identify what you want to achieve from a mentoring scheme before you begin. If you have no idea what goal you want to reach, be it improved company culture, diversity and inclusion, or training and development, then you will be unable to determine the success of the programme. Reverse mentoring schemes are beneficial if planned and executed properly.
Pair people strategically
You should pair people together that will benefit from one another. This can come down their job role or personality. The programme should be beneficial for both parties, so make sure to give them a fair chance by pairing them strategically.
Do a trial run
A trial run of a scheme can be beneficial in terms of tracking progress and discussing what worked and what didn’t. If participants didn’t meet regularly enough or weren’t learning from one another, it is worth going back to the drawing board and considering a different approach.
Choose participants that have the time to get invested
Appointing the CEO to a reverse mentoring programme may seem like a good idea, but it is unlikely that they will have the time to get fully invested in the task. Ask people to volunteer for the programme and speak to them about their motivations for getting involved. That way, you will find out who will be able to make the most out of the opportunity.
Track progress
Like everything in business, it is important to track the progress of your ventures. Conduct interviews with the participants before, during, and after the programme. Then you will be able to improve the scheme for future participants. 
As many business leaders will know, training and development have become crucial for retention. If a member of staff feels that they have hit a brick wall within an organisation, they are likely to look for employment elsewhere. Employees want long-term prospects from a company. Through such schemes, they can take the lessons they have learned to their own role.
If you are interested in developing a reverse mentoring programme we can help you to find the right human resources professionals to drive this initiative forward. Please get in touch with one of our specialist recruitment consultants today, and we can help you to hire top talent for your organisation. Alternatively, if you are interested in driving your initiatives forward through data, why not read our recent article on people analytics?