By Michelle Hay, Global Chief Human Resources Officer
I moderated a panel with a selection of smart and talented Chicago leaders from a variety of industries, including Andie S. Kramer, Partner at McDermott Will & Emery, Susan Glockner Gallagher, CEO at BPI Group, and Renetta McCann, Chief Inclusion Experience Officer at Leo Burnett/Publicis Groupe. We took a deeper look at new approaches to mentoring such as reciprocal and reverse mentorship at the Cushman & Wakefield’s Women’s Integrated Network (WIN) event. Both methods of mentoring, while not new ideas, are taking off across all industries.
Reverse mentoring is a practice where you pair upper management with younger employees. To teach senior executives about new technology, social media, and the latest workplace trends, businesses are recognizing that younger employees have valuable skills that older employees would benefit from as well. Adopting this mentorship concept raises the confidence of the younger professional by elevating his/her inherent knowledge while improving those understandings in the veteran employee.
Empowering All Employees
There’s also another mentoring practice called reciprocal mentoring – mentorship that is more mutual. In these relationships, there is greater fluidity in expertise between members. Harvard Business Review featured an interesting article recently on this topic. One source found that, “although mentors, by definition, have more experience in the profession, mentees bring their own insights, life experiences, and talents to the table. Mentors in these high-quality partnerships value and are influenced by their mentee’s perspective.” To further elaborate, reciprocal mentors aren’t merely focused on career advancement as an outcome of the relationship. Rather, they hope to gain insight and understanding on less tangible aspects such as work-life balance and confidence. HBR notes, “The finest reciprocal mentors are interested in helping mentees hone things such as self-efficacy, emotional intelligence, and resilience in the face of stress.”
While reverse and reciprocal mentoring have different approaches to mentoring, both look towards a common goal: professional and personal development. One may believe mentorship is only important to the mentee, however it is just as important to the workplace. Through reverse and reciprocal mentoring gender equality and inclusiveness can strengthen while biases and stereotypes diminish. The HBR article reports that women prefer reciprocity in mentorship rather than a hierarchal approach. Additionally, inclusive leaders have identified that women and men’s performance and dedication to her/his organization is stronger when effective mentor programs are established. Ultimately, companies promoting such mentorship initiatives leads to attracting and retaining top talent by creating an environment and work culture that everyone wants to be a part of.