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Reverse Mentoring Best Practices

In reverse mentoring, a more junior employee provides mentorship to a senior colleague. This role reversal can sometimes be a challenge to implement, so what are some best practices to ensure success with reverse mentoring?

As with any mentoring relationship, it is important to educate employees in advance about their roles, to create a plan up front for the mentoring partnership (e.g., what the mentee wants to learn, how frequently the mentor and mentee will meet), and to follow up with mentors and mentees to keep the partnerships on track, say Judy Corner and Stephen Grindrod of Insala®. However, they also recommend some additional best practices specific to reverse mentoring.

Historically, when people think of mentoring, they envision a mentor as an individual who is at a higher job grade level, has worked for an organization longer, and/or is older than his or her mentee, says Corner, Insala’s director of mentoring. “Reverse mentoring is the opposite of that—literally.”

As a result, when offering reverse mentoring, employers might need to break through preconceived notions of mentoring and recognize that problems related to confidence and egos might arise, says Grindrod, managing director of career services for Insala. For example, when it comes to a more senior-level or more experienced employee being mentored by a subordinate or less experienced worker on social media, “there could be a little resistance—a bit of an ego thing.”

“There could be a preconception that ‘I know more than you do.’ That could come from either side”—that is, either the mentor or the mentee could enter the partnership with that perspective, Corner explains. Or, a less experienced employee might be intimidated by the thought of mentoring a more experienced employee, especially if the mentee has the authority to make promotion decisions, she says.

So, what should employers do? “Don’t force people together,” Corner says. “You’ve got to have people who are open-minded and really want to try this.” In addition, especially since reverse mentoring is not widely used yet, Corner and Grindrod say it is important to provide training on reverse mentoring and what makes a good mentor/mentee, to clearly communicate why the organization is offering reverse mentoring, and to “sell” employees on the benefits of it.

In tomorrow’s Advisor, we take a look at research into how HR leaders feel their current training programs are meeting their needs.

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