Today, the wise are not only the seniors. In the digital age and new technologies, a mentor can also be a young person. Mentorship works both ways. For several years, “reverse mentoring” has developed rapidly in order to help senior executives acclimatize to digital progress. For training in complex tools or browsing social networks, this process is an excellent method for using company resources and consolidating the technological knowledge of senior employees. Zoom in on this trend which is spreading both in France and internationally.
The practice of mentoring integrates the transmission of knowledge on a voluntary basis in a professional relationship, which goes beyond hierarchical considerations. 11,000 VSEs and SMEs from 17 countries confirmed that 93% of them agree that mentoring could help them, but only 28% have experienced it, according to a survey by Sage (a multinational software and solutions publisher management, editor’s note). This practice would be a source of employee development and productivity. This system has played an essential role for 75% of executives in their careers, according to ATD (Association for Talent Development, an association dedicated to those who develop talent in the company, editor’s note). A new type of mentoring has emerged to enable all members of a business to learn new techniques. This is called “reverse mentoring”.
Reverse mentoring, beneficial learning for all
Reverse mentoring appears to be a real need in the face of digital evolution. This management process became widespread in the 90s, within the American firm General Electric. Jack Welch, the former CEO, had asked 500 executives of the company to identify young employees who could teach them how to use the web and its new tools. People of Generation Y, born between 1980 and 2000, also called “Digital Natives” or “ Millennials “, Often prove to be more competent when it comes to the digital world. They then obtain a new role in the company, that of supporting their elders towards this digital transition. However, this learning is not a one-way street and benefits both parties since employees have the opportunity to pool their knowledge and learn from each other. The mentor has the chance to share his digital know-how and to be recognized for it. He comes into direct contact with managers and expresses his vision of the firm and its management, opportunities that are difficult to do outside of the relationship established by mentoring. On the side of the senior manager, the gaze of the young employee allows him to modify his perception and his interactions on the company. It also adapts to a new way of working in an ever-changing digital environment. In exchange for this service, the executive can take advantage of his experience to support the young employee in his career goals, by sharing his knowledge of the profession and helping him to develop a network. Reverse mentoring thus allows the company to manage intergenerational relations and to develop better thanks to the skills of each.
When international and French companies get started …
Following General Electric, international companies such as Cisco (an American IT firm specializing in servers, editor’s note), HP and The Hartford (an American insurance company, editor’s note) adopted reverse mentoring and set up programs specialized. Several French companies such as Sanofi, SNCF or Orange have let themselves be seduced by the device. At the first telephone operator in France, each member of the executive committee is assigned a mentor, a young employee who teaches them the codes and customs on social networks. Associated with the Colas, Engie and Saint-Gobain companies, Axa has launched various “reverse mentoring” challenges with a strategy called “Employee Advocacy”, which consists of propelling employees into corporate ambassadors on social networks in order to to facilitate assimilation to the various digital tools. Founded in 2015 by Jean-Charles Varlet, Théo Dorp and Romain Abidonn, the Crème de la Crème start-up has specialized in this sector, by creating a platform that allows companies to call on the best freelance students from the largest schools. and universities in France to deliver them a digital project such as a business plan. With LinkedIn, the company created in 2017 an exclusive program with forty French leaders such as Pierre-André de Chalendar, CEO of Saint-Gobain (a French company specializing in the production, transformation and distribution of construction materials, editor’s note). The best talents of the start-up helped them on new acquisition channels, on chatbots and on the visibility strategy through the publication of content on the professional social network.
Mentoring in companies is therefore an increasingly widespread practice and constitutes a real lever for digital training for entrepreneurs and their employees. Suzanne de Janasz and Maury Peiperl, two professors from the International Institute of Management (IMD) in Lausanne, interviewed 45 executives who had benefited from mentoring programs. 71% of them said that the program led to an improvement in the company’s results and 84% felt that they had acquired skills within their function. Finally, 95% of employees who participated in a mentoring program said that the experience was motivating and allowed to achieve a higher level of performance, according to the study carried out by Ed Michaeles, Helen Handfield-Jones and Beth Axelrod in their book “The War for Talent”.