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  • Writer's pictureLaura Merritt

Taking on the great resignation: A win-win solution

Since the onset of “The Great Resignation” in early 2021, employees have been leaving their jobs in record numbers. Several factors, including the COVID pandemic, have been linked as contributors. Job dissatisfaction is among those topping the list.

Organizations that are winning the battle to keep their workforce intact all have something in common—they value and support their employees and provide them with growth opportunities. One of the most impactful ways organizations and their leaders can accomplish this is to make mentoring a part of their culture. Mentors, typically more tenured employees, provide advice and guidance to their respective mentees—generally those who are new to the organization or their role. The mentee feels appreciated, supported and encouraged, leading to increased job satisfaction and better performance.

Even organizations that are weathering the great resignation fairly well may still experience a less-than-ideal turnover rate, particularly among their younger employees. The question is, why?

Younger workers often feel disconnected from the organization. According to Great Place to Work, millennials, in particular, want equity, transparency, flexibility and purpose. And they're not afraid to quit if an employer doesn't meet their needs. Unfortunately, senior leaders often fail to connect with these employees and don’t understand what drives them.

While traditional mentoring should be an integral part of an organization’s culture, there’s a less well-known aspect of mentoring that is particularly effective in improving employee retention. It’s called reverse mentoring.

What is reverse mentoring?

According to Art of Mentoring, reverse mentoring simply swaps the roles of the traditional (more seasoned) mentor and the mentee (less tenured). The more senior employee becomes the primary learner, and the junior person becomes the educator. The goal is to help the more senior worker develop new skills and gain new insights and perspectives.

In addition, when given the opportunity to mentor, the junior employee will gain a better understanding of the organization, feel heard by more senior and experienced people, and develop their skills and confidence. Seeing through the eyes of a different generation can be invaluable to both the mentor and the mentee.

Reverse mentoring has many benefits. For example, senior leaders are often unfamiliar with the latest technology. Enlisting younger employees as mentors can help advance the technical skills of senior management. Technology is constantly evolving, and leaders must often make strategic decisions that are dependent on a clear understanding of the current landscape. By learning from these less tenured workers, leaders can better evaluate the many technology tools like social media sites, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning and how they may benefit the business. The result of this type of mentoring is a win-win. The organization and its senior management benefit from learning new skills and the young mentor gains a sense of purpose and feels more connected and valued as an employee.

In another example shared by Art of Mentoring, a company committed to encouraging a diverse workforce and reducing turnover, particularly among its female employees. However, when they looked at their traditional (and patriarchal) mentoring program, they realized a change was needed. The company implemented a program where senior male managers were matched with junior female mentors who schooled them on issues important to women. This initiative allowed the senior leaders to better understand diversity at a human level and empowered the female mentors to speak up, increase their visibility and develop better relationships with management. As a result, the company has seen an improvement in the retention rate of its female employees.

Getting started

  • Clearly state why you want to implement a reverse mentorship program and set clear goals.

  • Train both the mentor and mentee for their roles. Junior participants need to feel comfortable challenging their more senior mentees, while the senior staff must be open to these challenges.

  • Conduct regular reviews with both participants to ensure they don’t default to the traditional senior/junior relationship.

  • Help the mentor and mentee decide how frequently they will meet and for how long. It is important that both make their meetings a priority and commit to communicating between meetings to track their progress and stay on track.

  • Note issues or concerns that recur across multiple mentor/mentee relationships. These may signal more widespread diversity issues.

  • Start with small pilot programs and then use pilot participants as a steering committee to roll out the program on a larger scale.

Reverse mentoring, when done right, will not only help combat turnover but will also create a culture where diversity and inclusivity are ingrained and all employees can learn new skills, feel more engaged and, ultimately, contribute more to the organization’s success.

If you would like to learn more about how to reduce turnover within your organization, please contact AOE today!



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