Reverse mentoring is a new age model usually employed in places with a hierarchical personnel structure, most commonly with businesses and nonprofits.
Based on a working knowledge of similarly termed concepts like reverse mortgages, one would correctly deduce that reverse mentoring involves swapping the traditional roles in the mentor mentee relationship. As with a reverse mortgage, when the bank gives you money instead of you giving it to the bank, reverse mentoring involves the student imparting knowledge to the teacher. It is meant to offer those in more senior positions access to the knowledge and experience of newer and younger members of their organization.
Reverse mentoring programs generally revolve around the advancement of technological skills, as well as a more meaningful understanding of diversity. With the growing importance of social media in modern business practices, it has become essential that all staff members are capable of working with the tool efficiently. The onset of this need has placed a great strain on the typically older members of upper management to keep pace with the times. But most of the younger employees have grown up with technology as an intrinsic part of their daily lives. It is only logical then for organizations to utilize the expertise of junior employees to train those who are less technically literate.
There are many collateral benefits to this system as well. Reverse mentoring not only affords opportunities for education, it instills a greater sense of purpose in younger employees. Their efforts also provide a foundation from which they can develop more substantial relationships with their managers.
The interpersonal relationships that form are precisely why the programs are so effective in terms of diversity education. It is easy to make verbal commitments promising a world of equally empowered genders and races. It is difficult however to put it into practice – and not for lack of desire. It just does not happen without something to stimulate the process. Reverse mentoring engages senior management to work with and appreciate a diverse range of employees that they might not normally interact with.
Ultimately, these programs are advantageous across the board. With proper training, clear goals, and an attentive review board, reverse mentoring has a great chance for success. It might not single-handedly change the face of business, but it is certainly a good place to start.