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Explained: Reverse mentoring and how you can make it work

04 Oct 2018

Mentors. For generations they’ve been known as senior staff with experience who generally train newer recruits – but that mindset is being turned upside down with the idea of 'reverse mentoring'.

Reverse mentoring is when junior members of the workforce mentor senior colleagues like executives and directors. But before businesses start using reverse mentoring, it needs to be done with a level of openness, a safe environment, and training to make it work. That’s according to recruiting firm Hays New Zealand.

Hays A/NZ managing director Nick Deligiannis says the traditional image of a mentor has been turned on its head.

“In the corporate world, many organisations are encouraging reverse mentoring, where senior-level executives are coached by millennials and young recruits. This helps foster diversity, skills development, the idea of lifelong learning and an inclusive culture.”

So what makes a successful reverse mentoring campaign? Hays interviewed a number of HR experts and found that one of the most important criteria is having a safe environment.

PwC millennial mentor and manager Krystal Allen says that reverse mentoring is able to shape partners, recognise differences and share experiences in a safe way that allows her to challenge partners’ views and ways of thinking.

PwC also holds monthly meetings as part of its reverse mentoring programme, which launched in 2014. PwC aims to boost diversity and inclusion – something that the younger generation values, according to PwC Consulting’s head of people, Kalee Talvitie-Brown.

She PwC aims to empower the younger generation by helping them realise their opinions are valid, and also to help them understand different perspectives. 

PwC currently employs 122 millennials who are mentoring 200 different partners and directors. Mentors and mentees meet once a months, while mentors meet with each other every quarter.

Finally, businesses should be open to new insights, according to Enterprise Rent-A-Car European HR director Donna Miller. The company used a reverse mentoring programme to counter the traditional mentoring approach, and to identify women for promotional opportunities.

“Our senior directors quickly realised the value of spending time with younger team members (generally an hour a month), who were at the operational coalface and brought insights from different life experiences as well as different ways of working, particularly around innovative ways to communicate more effectively using technology,” Miller says.

“Their experiences and insights are invaluable in informing the business strategy, and this is an enormous benefit of having reverse mentoring.”  

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