Lecture at Forum of Management into XXI century at the University of South in Adelaide, Australia on 8th of November 2013

Keywords: mentoring, reverse mentoring, social exchange tool, knowledge transfer, intergenerational learning.

Traditional mentoring

There is a saying: „Sharing is caring” and mentoring exactly incorporates this idea.

In the traditional concept of mentoring – a mentor was a mature person, on a higher managerial or social position who took care about his protégée – a younger and less experienced person, supporting his or her career development and assisting in solving psychosocial problems (Kram K, Chandler D). Thus, it was a relation from top to down (mentor of higher position, protégée of lower position), which used to last over a longer period of time. In the ‘60s of the 20th century mentoring was implemented into organizations as a tool for developing subordinates.

Reason for changing the traditional concept of mentoring

In the last decade of the 20th century the society and organizations underwent through many changes. More flat organizational structure with less managerial positions, need for cross-section cooperation, need for quick transfer of knowledge and for learning new skills to catch up rapid technology development (Internet and Social media), working in diverse environment – these were the challenges the organizations faced.

Many changes occurred also in the societies. Ease of global political situation made for people easier to migrate, which contributed to more intercultural diversity in organizations, while development of Internet allowed people for easy assess to information that triggered a raise of human awareness. This in turn was reflected in higher employees’ expectations regarding working place, their role in the organization and in seeking a meaningful job.

All these employees’ demands and expectations can be satisfied with reverse mentoring.

New paradigm of mentoring – chance for young people

As people and organizations have developed and changed, the concept of mentoring has changed as well. Mentoring evolved from “one to one” and “face-to-face”, “top-down” relation to multiple, shorter-term relationships that comprise a developmental network (Kram K., Chandler. D) and a new kind of mentoring as peer mentoring, group mentoring or reverse mentoring emerged. In the latter, it is the expertise that makes a person a mentor, not the age or rank, so a mentor can be any person who is an expert in certain area and therefore the mentor can be younger and also in a lower hierarchical position than the mentee. Such mentoring is called “reverse mentoring” and is a revolution in mentoring approach. As research has shown reverse mentoring is predominantly realized when managers need to catch up the knowledge of social media & networking as well as advanced IT technologies (Hays, B. A., Swanson D. J.), and the young generation has expertise in this area. Reverse mentoring is realized, when both parties play the role of mentors – e.g. a manager is mentoring a young person on managerial skills, and in the same relation – a young person teaches a manager in subject in which he/she is an expert and in this way intergenerational learning takes place.

Offer your service as a mentor – boost your career

The new concept of mentoring creates for young people a lot of possibilities to develop. When they have skills, which others in the organization (especially managers) do not have – e.g. skills to use social media, advanced computer programs – they can take over initiative and propose to be a mentor in this area. Once establishing such relation with managers, a young person not only teaches them but also learns a lot by direct interaction with the manager, studying how to communicate and behave on managerial level. In such “learning cooperation”, young mentor enhances his/her skills building competitive advantage for future positions.

Prepare yourself to be a mentor (and a manager in the future)

When a young person has to develop mentoring skills for future assignment in reverse mentoring, he/she can ask a manager whom they respect to be a mentor. In this relation a young person will acquire knowledge about mentoring tools and techniques and will learn mentor’s skills while observing the mentor – skills of asking questions, listening, summarizing, supporting in development and mentoring techniques such as: setting the goal of learning relation, establishing action plans, monitoring the improvement, motivating the mentee in situation of setback, giving recognition and passing the knowledge. All these skills a mentee will then implement into their reverse mentoring relation and their working place.

Benefits from a new concept of mentoring

The new concept of mentoring and new kinds of mentoring relations constitute one of the most powerful developmental Human Resources’ tool in organization and are beneficial for many stakeholders.

Reverse mentoring delivers a lot of benefits for younger people – from psychological: feeling valuable for the company, contributing to its success, feeling doing a meaningful job – to tangible benefits: boosting their career.

Reverse mentoring is beneficial for managers, who enhance their skills in areas in which they are less advanced and gain an opportunity to get more insight in the way how young generation is working, thinking and behaving. Reverse mentoring constitutes a bridge between generations and boosts social exchange (Chaudhuri S., Ghosh R.) and when carried out between people of different cultures it contributes to better multicultural understanding, thus enhancing diversity in the company.

Reverse mentoring is beneficial – even if performed by a few employees only – for the whole organization – as benefits multiply on the principle of a snowball. A young person acquiring mentoring skills shares his expertise in reverse mentoring but he is also a role model for his/her colleges in the organization.

The “mentoring approach” in the relation represented by mentors radiates outside their organizations – into private or community relations and in this way a new kind of relation base of reciprocal benefits and partnership is reaching more and more people, contributing to the creation of a new society. Consequently, the saying: “Changing yourself, you will change the world” can be translated into saying: “Becoming mentor, you will change the world”.

References:

Chaudhuri, S., Ghosh, R. Reverse Mentoring: A Social Exchange Tool for Keeping the Boomers Engaged and Millennials Committed, Human Resource Development Review 2012 11(1) 55–76.

Hays, B. A., Swanson, D. J. (2012) Public relations practitioners’ use of reverse mentoring in the development of powerful professional relationships. PRISM 9 (2): http://www.prismjournal.org/homepage.html. [ Accessed:13th May 2013].

Kram, K., Chandler, D. (2005) Mentoring and Developmental Networks in the New Career Context. In Gunz, H. & Peiperl, M. (2005) Handbook of Career Studies, Sage.

Zanni, G. (2009) Reverse mentoring: An effective strategy for career growth Summary. Consultant Pharmacist, 24(6), 465-467.

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