Use Reverse Mentoring to Boost Retention

BY Kathy Crosett
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If you believe that everyone has something of value to share with another person, you’ll see the wisdom setting up a reverse mentoring program in your sales department. A good reverse mentoring program allows reps to contribute in non-​traditional ways to the team. You can also use this type of program to attract top-​shelf candidates and increase retention.

History and Development of Reverse Mentoring

People generally give credit for the idea of reverse mentoring to Jack Welch, the long-​time leader of GE. Decades ago, Welch understood that younger workers could help more established team members understand how to use technology. What he might not have counted on was how much these interactions strengthened teamwork at GE.

While there may still be a need for younger workers to help long term employees with technical issues and the nuances of social media, some organizations are using reverse mentoring in other ways. In a td​.org article, Aaron Bright describes how these programs can ease the integration of new team members into the organization.

Reverse Mentoring and Retention

These days, organizations are hiring employees who come with vastly different credentials than what has been required in the past. These team members may not have a college degree or several years of experience. And they may not come from the same cultural background as everyone else.

If your company has also pledged to actively pursue DEI initiatives, the newest team members may not fit into the organization easily. These team members may feel isolated, and not just because they are the newbies. They may not share the same cultural touchstones.

Your organization can improve their onboarding experience by matching them with a more senior team member. In a formal mentoring process, these team members may meet on a weekly basis for several months. During these meetings, the new employee should educate the senior employee about their culture and personal experiences with the goal of increasing understanding and empathy. When these employees feel valued, “they start to believe they are working for an organization they want to be a part of for the long term.” 

The reverse mentoring process also encourages your longstanding employees to listen to new ideas. Sales success often depends on creative thinking. When new employees are presented with a challenge, they will bring fresh ideas to age-​old problems. For example, they may have suggestions about how to stand apart from the competition or get the attention of the prospect. As they grow more comfortable with interacting with more established team members, they’ll feel safer about offering their ideas.

Reverse Mentoring and Hiring

Nontraditional candidates may be more willing to apply for your positions once they learn that your organization is open to hiring them. Few people want to go through an exhaustive hiring practice if they suspect a company will never make an offer to a person like them.

Review the language you’re using in your recruiting ads and remove phrasing that might make nontraditional candidates shy away from applying. Ongig​.com points out a sentence like the following as being problematic. “Seeking a superstar who can liaise with the procurement team and push the envelope.” Candidates with limited experience might doubt their ability to be a superstar. They also might not understand corporate language and what’s meant by procurement team. If candidates don’t understand what the job is, they won’t apply.

Despite laws designed to specifically protect workers from discrimination based on race, gender, age or sexual orientation, typically marginalized people will be wary of organizational culture. Sometimes this wariness is based on personal past experiences. You can alleviate some of that concern by mentioning your commitment to inclusion. When describing the benefits of working in your organization on your website and your job postings, be specific. Phrases like “diversity training for all employees” and “mentoring programs for underrepresented groups” show the kind of commitment people are looking for.

Hiring and retention are challenges for all organizations. You can improve your results and become the kind of company people seek out if you commit to regular and reverse mentoring programs.

Photo by RODNAE Productions at Pexels