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'Reverse Mentoring' is a leadership trend to watch in 2021

31 March 2021 12:51 PM
Tags:
The Money Show
Absa
Clement Motale
mentor
mentoring

"Reverse Mentoring" flips the traditional mentorship concept on its head by getting younger team members to mentor "upwards".

As a senior manager in a business, how would you respond if you were asked to attend a mentorship session that would be driven by your graduate trainee? Sounds improbable …. But what if this is one of the most interesting leadership trends to emerge in the current environment?

“Reverse Mentoring” is a movement that has been gaining traction globally, which takes the traditional mentorship concept and flips it on its head. It provides a space for younger team members to effectively mentor upwards and help guide and grow leaders in areas they may be unfamiliar with. It provides an important opportunity for younger people with fresh ideas to work with their more experienced counterparts and help them navigate a rapidly changing world.

Younger team members have a unique perspective - learn from them! Cathy Yeulet/123rf

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There are a couple of reasons why I think Reverse Mentoring could be a leadership trend to watch:

A closer connection with your workforce

The COVID-19 pandemic rewrote the management handbook with many businesses becoming disconnected from their staff, shareholders, suppliers and clients. Traditional face-to-face engagements were off the table and many organisations lost the ability to apply “the personal” touch to key relationships.

A key outcome has been how technology changed the way companies remain connected with their critical stakeholders, within and outside organisations. Traditional platforms such as LinkedIn and WhatsApp have previously dominated communications, but we now see the likes of Slack, Teams and Clubhouse now becoming go-to platforms.

Data privacy and security is becoming a bigger issue for both organisations and individuals and these new platforms have rapidly grown in popularity and the adoption of these technologies are becoming more mainstream.

But does it work? Well, Jack Welch - the legendary former CEO from General Electric – used the concept of Reverse Mentoring already back in the late ’90s to have his younger staff teach older executives around the development of the internet.

More recently, pharmaceutical group Johnson and Johnson asked a subsidiary of Accenture to structure a Reverse Mentoring initiative to drive the adoption of tech inside of their organisation. 88% of their senior leadership team described the initiative as a “positive and unique personal experience” and the initiative drove double-digit growth in digital capabilities in the group who participated.

Diversity is being rewarded

While organisations continue to grapple with the idea of “diversity” in its different facets, it is clear that leadership teams are being forced to come out of their comfort zones and understand how these issues impact a socially-conscious workforce. They may want to introduce new ideas and diverse thinking, but may end up being exposed to the same types of people and projects, and ultimately end up establishing biases and rewarding what they know.

By not only engaging with younger members of their teams who aren’t part of their traditional reporting lines, and properly empowering them to drive change, senior executives have the opportunity to be exposed to a whole new pool of ideas and talent that they can develop.

French multinational AXA ran a very successful Reverse Mentoring program where hundreds of senior executives were paired with younger mentors who were able to record their interactions and build a content library for other executives to access. The senior executives reported a sharp increase in self-confidence following these sessions and this allowed them to make smarter and quicker decisions in their day-to-day activities.

Supplementing talent management initiatives

The war for high-quality young talent is very real in places like South Africa where skills are scarce and teams are often forced to supplement their traditional workforces with external consultants. Failure to engage a youthful workforce can result in significant churn and drop-offs after investing significant time and financial resources into talented young team members.

Research conducted by BNY Mellon Pershing showed that by introducing a structured Reverse Mentoring initiative into their operations, they not only had a more transparent and open dialogue with their staff members, they also enjoyed a 96% retention rate of their youth cohort who participated.

Aligning with global trends

Broadly there are 3 global “mega-trends” that people are watching in 2021: Technological, Political and Social shifts and the changing world of work.

Before COVID-19 struck in 2020, organisations were aware of these shifts and trends, but may not yet have been fully prepared to embrace them. The idea of remote work was seen as a perk for senior executives who were perceived to be likely more responsible and better geared to work from home. 2020 changed that and leadership teams suddenly found their entire workforce having to adapt to this change.

Where leaders had built teams that were responsive, embraced technology and understood these trends, their businesses have emerged stronger and more agile going into 2021 and this could be a catalyst for enhanced operational performances as the global economy recovers.

While the idea of being mentored by someone potentially half your age might appear far-fetched at first glance, a radical new approach to mentorship initiatives in your business may just be the shot in the arm that your leadership team and business needs to navigate this new and ever-changing world of work.

Article by Clement Motale, Head of Marketing and Corporate Relations at Absa Group.




31 March 2021 12:51 PM
Tags:
The Money Show
Absa
Clement Motale
mentor
mentoring

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