A young woman sitting next to a man showing a reverse mentorship as they work in front of a laptop.
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How reverse mentoring can help your Gen Z employees

10 May 2023

Fiona Place looks at what reverse mentoring is, the benefits it can bring employers and shares advice on how to get sustainability on the agenda.

According to a survey conducted by KPMG in the UK in late 2022, one in three respondents aged 18-24 have turned down a job because they disapproved of the employer’s ESG commitments.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. People entering the workforce are dedicated to righting the world’s wrongs. A study by Deloitte in 2022 found that climate change ranked second in Gen Z’s list of concerns, while 48pc of respondents reported that they are applying pressure on their employers to tackle this.

If you’re not addressing this in your organisation, you’re falling behind. So, what’s the solution? One innovative option could be reverse mentoring.

Reverse mentorship and Gen Z

Gen Z are passionate about sustainability and will make career decisions based on this.

The Learning Mindset Report by Hays reveals both the popularity and effectiveness of mentorship schemes.

There are benefits to junior members of the workforce teaching and influencing senior figures, including boosting employee satisfaction and engagement.

Meanwhile, senior workers are able to gain valuable insights into new trends and tools, and how they can be used effectively to shape the workplace

What is reverse mentorship?

Reverse mentorship involves junior (often younger) employees sharing their knowledge with senior colleagues. This stems from the notion that, while experienced workers have a lot to teach their juniors, they too have gaps in their knowledge, in particular around modern trends and skills.

While those in Gen Z are new to the workplace, the knowledge, skills and expertise they’ve developed so far can be shared with more established colleagues.

Given that 77pc of Gen Z support environmental literacy being taught in schools, it’s clear that education on green issues is important to them.

What are the benefits of reverse mentorship?

There are many advantages of early-career professionals sharing their knowledge within your organisation. These include creating an inclusive workplace, closing generational and skills gaps, and creating opportunities to learn.

Given that it can be difficult to nurture relationships between different generations in the workplace, a reverse mentorship scheme can also be an effective method of strengthening communication and collaboration.

It boosts the confidence of all involved, leading to further employee satisfaction. The reverse mentor can take pride in the fact that they have something to offer to your business and that their passion for sustainability is relevant and important.

It presents them with the opportunity to quickly gain knowledge of the company while building a senior network outside of their reporting line. Simultaneously, the mentee will be presented with the opportunity to implement new approaches and take action, perhaps even becoming a sustainability ambassador themselves.

There’s proof of its success too. As Hays uncovered in its Learning Mindset Report, 76pc of employers and 66pc of employees were happy with the impact of the mentorship scheme at their organisation. Other businesses have also shared their success stories of bringing the entire workforce up to date.

How can you implement reverse mentorship?

Reverse mentoring partnerships require a mentee – a senior person who can impact the business culture (typically director, general manager, etc). This is someone looking to broaden their understanding of sustainability and who wants to be part of leading change in the sector.

It also requires a reverse mentor who would benefit from the opportunity to grow an external network and support a mentee to broaden their knowledge and understanding of sustainability. This is someone with ambition, who ultimately wants to be part of leading change in the sector.

It’s important that both parties approach it in the right way. Some more experienced employees may feel patronised by the idea of being advised or instructed by their Gen Z colleagues. At the same time, those new to the world of work might face challenges in building relationships.

How can you facilitate a positive attitude from everyone? Decide what you want to get out of the scheme and set clear objectives – these should align with your company’s sustainability goals. Outline whether this will be an ongoing collaboration or a short-term plan, and whether you’re going to do a small trial or roll this out widely.

Identify your mentors and mentees. Do you have the right Gen Z workforce who are equipped with green skills? Or do they themselves need more training on the subject (something they are likely to be receptive to)?

Lastly, communicate this clearly to those who have expressed an interest in learning more about sustainability, or those in the business who you think require this knowledge.

Make it clear why you are running the scheme and what your goals will be, the timeframe for the programme as well as why you have selected your mentors. Once the scheme is underway, provide opportunities for feedback and keep adjusting and improving as you go along.

While reverse mentoring presents a major cultural shift, the benefits are clear. It boosts employee engagement, improves your workforce’s skillset and reduces attrition rates in the process.

By leveraging the knowledge and passion of your Gen Z workers, you can bring your senior staff into the modern world and take greater strides in your sustainability journey.

Think about whether such a scheme is right for your organisation, and follow the steps listed above to get started. With the right direction, you’ll be looking at a better informed, more confident workforce!

By Fiona Place

Fiona Place previously worked for Hays. A version of this article previously appeared on the Hays blog.

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