September 2013
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TD Magazine

Reverse Mentoring: Letting Millennials Lead the Way

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Millennials mentor senior leaders on social media strategies that promise to ramp up business.

Traditional mentoring involves a senior manager counseling a younger professional who is following a similar career path. But many companies are turning to reverse mentoring by asking their tech-savvy Millennials to school leaders on social media, mobile computing, and the cloud. In fact, a growing number of organizations have created formal or informal reverse mentoring programs, including such industry giants as Cisco, Johnson & Johnson, and General Electric.

So, when property and casualty insurance leader The Hartford wanted its executives to become more fluent in the digital technologies its customers and partners were using, president and CEO Liam E. McGee implemented reverse mentoring partnerships.

According to Reverse Mentoring at The Hartford: Cross-Generational Transfer of Knowledge About Social Media, a report from the Sloan Center on Aging & Work in collaboration with the Boston College Center for Work & Family, The Hartford's reverse mentoring program began with a small group of Millennials who already were exchanging ideas about technology. These young workers were tapped as mentors to help managers expand their understanding and use of social media.


This led to career development opportunities for them, as well as benefits for the business. Corporate changes included new telemarketing tactics, an updated social media usage policy, and increased employee comfort with the company network's information-sharing capabilities.

To date, more than 50 mentees across seven states have participated in the program. Of the 12 mentees who participated in the first wave, 80 percent rated the project "extremely effective/effective" for the business, and 97 percent rated it "extremely effective/effective" for personal development. Likewise, of the 12 mentors in the project's first wave, 11 were promoted within one year of the program's inception.

The report concludes that "Opportunities for learning and open discussion provided by reverse mentioning are fluid and countless, and the new relationships formed by mentors and mentees can be inspiring and genuine."

About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently sources and authors content for TD Magazine and CTDO, as well as manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs. Contact her at [email protected]

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