More and more companies these days are using reverse mentoring to help achieve business goals. Whether the organization is trying to increase diversity and inclusion, help executives further develop their technology skills, retain younger employees, drive organizational change or some other goal, business mentoring experts are increasingly turning to this mentoring model to help achieve ambitious people-related objectives.
However, it isn’t always easy to start a program, or keep it going for the long haul. Without proper support, no business mentoring program can be sustained. If you’re considering a reverse mentoring program for your organization, keep these keys to success in mind.
1. Set a business goal for the reverse mentoring program.
Organizations can start mentoring programs for a variety of business reasons. Just as with traditional business mentoring programs, they aren’t likely to succeed (or be supported by top leadership) without a clear goal that supports important business objectives. For example, if the goal is to improve the technical savvy of older executives, then find a way to measure it to show that the program is doing what it set out to do. Too many mentoring programs, start without a clear goal in mind, makes it almost impossible to prove business value for the long-term.
Also read: Role of Mentoring and Goals in Development
2. Provide ample training for young mentors.
With any business mentoring program, training for mentors is important for the business mentoring program’s success. In particular, clarifying roles and expectations for participants in the program is critical. Without training, mentors are set up for a struggle, since it’s more likely that this is their first experience as a mentor. Even if the mentors and mentees are experienced in traditional business mentoring, reverse mentoring presents unique challenges that mentors and mentees should be prepared for.
3. Get some infrastructure in place to support the reverse mentoring program.
The logistics of running a mentoring program can be challenging. If your program has more than a few mentor-mentee pairs, a purchase of business mentoring software can be well worth the investment. Good business mentoring software can ease the administrative burden to mentoring program managers as well as the mentor and mentee when it comes to scheduling check-in meetings, following up on business mentoring program participants, and gathering information to evaluate the success of the program. Some business mentoring software can even pair mentors with mentees using sophisticated, research-driven algorithms.
4. Provide a business mentoring plan template.
At the beginning of a formal business mentoring relationship, it’s a good idea for mentors and mentees to craft a business mentoring plan. In a business mentoring plan, mentors and mentees clearly spell out how often they are going to meet, their personal goals for the program, and any other details of the relationship. Since reverse mentoring represents a departure from some of the norms of traditional business mentoring, it’s an especially good idea to have expectations spelled out by all parties involved. The program coordinator can provide a template for the business mentoring plan to help the mentor and mentee get the conversation started.
5. Create a robust communication plan for each stage of the program’s life cycle.
Communication plans are critical for the success of a business mentoring program. These communication plans need to start well before the mentoring plan launches, to generate excitement and recruit mentors and mentees. It can be especially effective to have a highly respected leader talk about the program and its importance. Many excellent business mentoring programs have struggled to get off the ground simply because there wasn’t enough communication and interest around the program; don’t let your mentoring program meet the same fate.
6. Measure the success of the reverse mentoring program.
Before the program even begins, it pays to have a plan for evaluating the program’s success. Sometimes, this can be challenging to measure. Start with the original business goals that the mentoring program is trying to achieve, and then come up with a way to measure progress on those goals through key indicators. For example, if a major goal of the program is to drive diversity and inclusion efforts, a key indicator might be the number of people in color who are promoted to leadership positions. WIthout key indicators that indicate progress toward achieving specific business goals, the program isn’t likely to continue to be funded or get support from top level management.
Reverse mentoring can offer many benefits to organizations, in addition to traditional business mentoring. Make sure to follow these keys to success to ensure the program prospers.