Our world has seen vigorous development in technology in the last couple of decades. New methods of doing work have evolved; Gen Y and Z have been ahead of the senior managers in any organisation in terms of their understanding and application of these new practices. At home, the youth have taken charge of putting in place new devices and on-boarding the seniors onto the new devices such as computers, laptops, Smart TV, emails, facebook, whatsapp, video files, snapchat, instagram, alarms, camera, smart phones, gaming, reminders, calendars, and so on. Families have started e-shopping, booking hotels, taxis and tickets, paying bills online, e-gaming, sharing updates via the phone and so on. Why do organizations face challenges in getting the youth to similar things there? Why don't senior folks learn from the freshers or the younger colleagues?
Progressive organisations came up with an idea called Reverse Mentoring to promote learning among seniors from the junior colleagues. One wonders why the organisation has to create a specific program to make this happen when it's commonplace at home.
Build the right environment
People enter the workplace each day with a mindset very different from what they normally wear at home. If at all the top leaders can build a home-like environment at work, ego of seniors won't come on the way of seeking knowledge, inputs, guidance and help from the juniors; and similarly, ego of the junior folks won't spring up on the way of staying humble and grounded while coaching and helping the seniors. The first key to success of such program is to build the right environment within an organisation.
Organisations at times struggle to make this work because the seniors do not see the reason of learning from the juniors. They fear, their authority will be compromised and their directions on issues of organisation effectiveness will be treated casually by their direct reports. Similarly the juniors might suddenly start misinterpreting the situation of coaching seniors to be that of incapable managers. Such misgivings can be eliminated only when the basic premises of learning are clear in the organisation.
It's not a one-way street
Reverse Mentoring is a two-way process. The coach and the coachee both have to learn in this unique process. The juniors coaching the seniors need to learn about the business, the external environment, perspectives about the business, best practices and historical events. They could rethink about these to imagine possible alternatives of dealing with the challenges and opportunities if they were to reappear.
And similarly the seniors need to not only learn new technologies but also imagine how these learnings can be applied to solve business challenges. They could join hands with these young turks to run special projects to innovate new solutions or products.
This two-way street needs to be built and again it's a cultural element to be built by the Top Leadership.
Choose the right combination
Choosing the right pair or triad is critical keeping in mind the objective of the program, learning opportunities that can be created by forming the combination and compatibility of the personalities. Since adult Learning is a matter of individual's interest and commitment, it can't be effective by forcing the individuals to a Mentoring program. Hence it's important that the participants make their own decisions while theHR department could restrict its role to that of a facilitator and an observer.
Periodic reports from the HR team could help the managers track how well the program is getting executed. As a program gets executed, there are needs of course-corrections such as rebranding, communication, choice of the partners in the coaching process, redefining the objectives, clarifying the expectations of the participants and recognition of the efforts by the participants.
Reverse Mentoring is hyped. This is like any other learning process which calls for setting the right environment, setting the right expectations and forming the right teams.