Reverse Mentoring or Reciprocal Learning? Rethinking Cross-generational Learning in the Diverse, Digital World
Reverse mentoring, the practice of pairing senior executives (mentees) with younger employees (mentors) to develop older, senior executives’ technology and digital acumen, is gaining steam. Companies such as the BBC, Microsoft, UnitedHealth, and Target are among those creating and implementing reverse mentoring programs for their employees. General Electric was one of the first to launch a program in 1999 to tap young employees to teach older executives how to use the Internet. The programmatic goal for these companies is to harness millennials’ and Gen Z’s digital skills and knowledge to educate and develop Baby Boomers and Gen X employees’ technology and social media skills.
Microsoft Austria launched their reverse mentoring program in 2014. Michael Jacobs, General Manager, was paired with mentor, Magnus Svorstøl Lie, Partner Sales Executive through the Microsoft Academy of College Hires (MACH) program. Michael gained first-hand knowledge of topics ranging from new digital communication tools to workplace trends. Magnus didn’t walk away empty-handed. Through his time with Michael, he had a front-row seat to view leadership at work and the larger business picture.
Traditional mentoring normally involves a seasoned exec showing the ropes to a younger and often less experienced colleague. Here it’s the complete opposite: digital natives, new to the world of work, with completely different social behaviors and backgrounds are coaching senior leaders on what the workplace should look like, what drives younger talent, and how to move forward,” explains Michael Jacobs, General Manager, Microsoft Norway.
The biggest challenge between generations X and Y, is that X needs to manage Y, and Y needs to adapt to X. And reverse mentoring does exactly that, it’s a bridge-builder between our generations.” Magnus Svorstøl Lie, Partner Sales Executive & MACH.
Microsoft witnessed the results from this program: it creates a two-way street to share valuable information and skills that drive and positively impact business while growing new leaders.
Is It Reverse Mentoring or Something Else?
At its core, the goals and concepts of reverse mentoring are a genius approach, but is it really mentoring?
Rene Petrin argues that it is not, and we’re inclined to agree. BusinessDictionary.com defines mentoring as an “Employee training system under which a senior or more experienced individual (the mentor) is assigned to act as an advisor, counselor, or guide to a junior or trainee. The mentor is responsible for providing support to, and feedback on, the individual in his or her charge.” Petrin views reverse mentoring as coaching rather than true mentoring. “For a younger person to truly mentor an older person, that younger one has to have sufficient maturity to relate to the older worker in such a way that will create the mentoring relationship. I find this highly unlikely in most cases, particularly if the mentors are younger workers.”
Coaching, as defined by Petrin, “doesn’t require an intimate, trusting relationship. Coaching requires the expert, who is the coach, to be able to convey his or her expertise to the coachee. The coach’s style of coaching may impact how successful s/he is as a coach, but the expertise can be passed on to the mentoree regardless.”
Neither the commonly held definition of reverse mentoring or Petrin’s coaching definition hit the mark. Inherent in mentoring and coaching is a relationship based on trust. This is the foundation for change to occur. Without it, unearthing internal obstacles that may prevent behavior change is impossible.
Instead, what seems to be happening between many of the dyads, or relationships, is what we refer to as reciprocal learning. The relationship goes beyond traditional mentoring by paving the way for an exchange of learning where a wealth of existing experience is present on both sides. It serves as a two-way street. If the program is developed and implemented with that goal in mind, it can go beyond technology and social media training and education to include operations, customer preferences, and diversity.
Reciprocal learning expands the current notion of reverse mentoring and opens the door for companies to leverage more than technology and social media training. Consider this: women comprise half of the college educated workforce, but represent only 29% of science and engineering jobs. As the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) notes, this percentage drops in the leadership ranks in both these fields. In 2017, women comprised only 5% of CEOs in S&P 500 companies while men still significantly outnumbered women in the boardroom. There’s room for improvement, and reciprocal learning serves as one tool among many to promote gender-inclusive leadership development.
If creating and implementing a reciprocal learning program sounds like a win for your organization, consider these success factors outlined by SHRM to help you begin to draft your program foundation:
Keep the Conversation Going
Stay tuned for our next blog where we delve deeper into reciprocal learning benefits, guidelines, and success measures.
 Reverse Mentoring: Novel Necessity or Condescending Craze? | Regus. (2018, January 05). Retrieved January 18, 2018, from https://www.regus.com/work-us/reverse-mentoring-novel-necessity-condescending-craze/?utm_campaign=Engagement_Newsletter_1801_IE&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Eloqua
 For the purposes of this article, we are categorizing millennials, or Generation Y, as those people born 1977 to 1995. Generation Z, also referred to as iGen or Centennials, represent people born 1996 and later. They are beginning to enter the workforce, and like millennials, grew up with unprecedented exposure and access to technology and social media. Generation X were born between 1965 and 1976, while Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964.
 Reverse mentoring: How millennials are becoming the new mentors. (n.d.). Retrieved January 19, 2018, from https://news.microsoft.com/europe/features/reverse-mentoring-how-millennials-are-becoming-the-new-mentors/
 Reverse mentoring: How millennials are becoming the new mentors.
 Mentoring. BusinessDictionary.com. Retrieved January 15, 2018, from BusinessDictionary.com website: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/mentoring.html
 Petrin, R. (n.d.). Business Mentoring Matters: Why Reverse "Mentoring" is Not Mentoring. Retrieved January 18, 2018, from http://www.management-mentors.com/about/corporate-mentoring-matters-blog/bid/97925/Why-Reverse-Mentoring-is-Not-Mentoring
 Petrin, 2018.
 Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved January 19, 2018, from https://ngcproject.org/statistics
 Gubbi, P., Hubbard, S., & Smith, R. (2017, February 16). How to Create a Successful Reverse Mentoring Program to Promote Gender Diversity. Retrieved January 19, 2018, from https://blog.shrm.org/blog/how-to-create-a-successful-reverse-mentoring-program-to-promote-gender-dive
 Wiener-Bronner, D. (2017, December 18). The ranks of women CEOs got even smaller this year. Retrieved January 19, 2018, from http://money.cnn.com/2017/12/18/news/women-ceos-2017/index.html
 Gubbi, 2017.
Is your organization prepared?
Bill Valdez wants to know, Is the Federal Government in the Midst of a Leadership Crisis? Using data from a survey conducted by the Senior Executives Association (SEA) in collaboration with Deloitte, he argues that a government-wide strategy to nurture the next generation of leaders doesn't exist. They are ill-prepared to address what the report refers to as a retirement tsunami.
Consider these statistics:
What are the potential warning signs that your organization might be facing a leadership crisis?
Recommendations for Leadership Development
Consider the following when creating a leadership development program:
Leadership development may seem daunting and overwhelming, especially if an organization finds itself in the same predicament as the federal government. Ignoring the problem, relying on Talent Acquisition to continually feed the pipeline, or succumbing to paralysis is a choice that most organizations cannot afford. Invite partners across the organization to begin the discussion, create a call to action rooted in data, conduct analysis, sketch a framework and strategy, and identify actionable and achievable steps to get the ball rolling.
 Valdez, B., Dye, D., & Womack, K. (n.d.). Survey of federal government executives. Retrieved February 01, 2018, from https://seniorexecs.org/989-survey-of-federal-government-executives
 Bersin, J., Geller, J., Wakefield, N., & Walsh, B. (2016, February 29). Introduction—The new organization. Retrieved January 17, 2018, from https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/focus/human-capital-trends/2016/human-capital-trends-introduction.html
 Bersin, Introduction—The new organization.
 Shahid, S. (2014). Outlook on the global agenda (Rep.). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from World Economic Forum website: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/GAC14/WEF_GAC14_OutlookGlobalAgenda_Report.pdf
 The state of leadership development (Rep.). (2016). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from Harvard Business Publishing website: https://www.harvardbusiness.org/sites/default/files/19770_CL_StateOfLeadership_Report_July2016.pdf
 Hairston Blade, V. (2017, September 18). 10 warning signs that your leadership pipeline is at risk. Retrieved January 17, 2018, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2017/07/05/10-warning-signs-that-your-leadership-pipeline-is-at-risk/#6e8886a37c73
 (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from https://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766
 Kastner, N., & Somogyi, E. (2017, February 22). 5 skills employers are seeking but millennials are lacking (through the eyes of a millennial). Retrieved February 01, 2018, from http://blog.ung.edu/mba/5-skills-employers-are-seeking-but-millennials-are-lacking-through-the-eyes-of-a-millennial/
 American Sociological Association. (2009, March 31). Research links diversity with increased sales revenue and profits, more customers[Press release]. Retrieved May 21, 2018, from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-03/asa-rld033009.php
What’s your learning & development initiatives’ Net Promoter Score®?"
What Is Net Promoter Score (NPS®)?
Fred Reichheld, a partner at Bain & Co consultants, is credited with creating a framework known as the Net Promoter Score, or NPS. Reichheld led Bain’s customer loyalty practice in early 2000, and he developed the concept based on decades of field experience in customer market research, advising senior executives on customer loyalty and growth, and publishing literature on the subject.
Initially, NPS was used exclusively as a customer loyalty metric and based on one question, “How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague?” As Reichheld and his team developed the metric into a robust management model, companies across industries benefitted from gaining not only customer loyalty data, but they also were able to tap into product and service gaps and overall company health.
At its core, NPS measures customer experience and predicts business growth. It anchors and details a business’s customer experience management (CEM). When used in conjunction with other metrics collected throughout the customer experience, leadership gains actionable data to improve customer experience performance.
Among its greatest benefits, as noted by Net Promoter Network, is ease of use. It’s easily understood by employees across the organization, thereby engaging them in the customer experience.
Applicability to Learning and Development
In a previous Solutions Arts’ article, Overcoming Evaluation Obstacles, we outlined common barriers associated with Learning and Development (L&D) evaluation and how to overcome them. Among the obstacles we discussed were the limited staff time and required tools to effectively conduct learning transfer evaluation. If we substitute customers for employees, or learners, NPS becomes an effective, simple tool to gauge content value and learning transfer and integration.
NPS How-to for L&D
NPS is more commonly thought of and used in eLearning courses. Inserting an NPS survey at the end of an eLearning course (or via email following the course) is a great first step for many companies to test-drive the application. However, NPS can be applied effectively in other L&D and business initiatives. The following lists examples where companies have used NPS to analyze outcomes, measure integration and application, and improve iterations of future efforts:
Adam Ramshaw outlines five training evaluation questions to launch an initial NPS survey.
Let’s use an example from above to illustrate how to calculate an NPS and define the corresponding terminology.
We’ll use a typical 0–10 Likert scale to define respondent options.
Respondents select their likelihood level and fall into one of three categories:
Promoters respond with a score of 9 or 10 and represent those most likely to recommend the course.
Passives are those respondents who score 7 or 8. They’re unenthusiastic about the course, but unlikely to register disapproval.
Detractors fall within the 0–6 range and may actively devalue the course.
To calculate the NPS, subtract the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters. For example, if 75% of respondents were Promoters and 10% were Detractors, the NPS would be 65. The NPS can range from a low of -100 (if every learner is a Detractor) to a high of 100 (if every learner is a Promoter).
NPS isn’t designed or best applied as the only evaluation tool in L&D’s toolkit. It is one assessment tool that can easily be adopted and adapted in L&D’s evaluation strategy. If the goal is to gradually shift the organization to a data-driven environment to inform leadership, business goals, and initiatives and capture learner feedback, NPS offers opportunities to collect and analyze data in a simple format across the organization.
 Net Promoter, Net Promoter System, Net Promoter Score, NPS and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.
 NPS History. (n.d.). Retrieved December 01, 2017, from https://www.wootric.com/net-promoter-score/nps-history/
 Ramshaw, A. (2017, September 27). The 5 Training Survey Questions You Must Include. Retrieved February 02, 2018, from https://www.genroe.com/blog/training-survey-questions/11413
Solutions Arts attended UCLA's Cannabis Research Initiative's, "The Future of Cannabis in LA" event on February 22nd. The event--held at the UCLA Neuroscience Research Building--hosted a sold out audience of 240 members of the larger Los Angeles community.
Panelists presented and discussed topics such as the effects of cannabis legalization on aspects of health, crime, tax revenue, jobs, and traffic accidents in states like Colorado and Washington and anticipating the kinds of effects Los Angeles might see as cannabis legalization rolls out.
One of the panels presenting at UCLA Health Cannabis Research Initiative's, "The Future of Cannabis in LA" event held February 22, 2018.
UCLA faculty, outside speakers, and panelists included:
Solutions Arts engages with a variety of diverse clients across industries including the commercial cannabis industry. From testing laboratories, distribution, and manufacturing to cultivation and retail, we partner with clients who rely on our learning and development expertise that comes from decades of working with clients in highly regulated environments. Our clients realize that highly skilled and trained staff result in owning market share and retaining valued employees.
Click the link to learn more about UCLA's Cannabis Research Initiative.
Dan Cable’s article, Why People Lose Motivation – and What Managers Can Do to Help, gets to the heart of motivation in the workplace and reflects what we know to be true: people are hard-wired to seek learning opportunities and purpose, and embrace challenging, meaningful tasks. When employees encounter consistent roadblocks to satisfy these needs, they become less motivated and engaged.
An organizational shift such as this might seem overwhelming, but as Cable notes, there are three things leaders and managers can do with minimal effort to activate employees’ seeking systems and reap the benefits:
Despite these difficulties, it is possible for leaders to activate their employees’ seeking systems without a large overhaul to organization-wide policies and culture. And, in my experience working with leaders across the globe, you can reach business objectives while improving the lives of employees. There are three small but consequential nudges that trigger employees’ seeking systems: encourage them to play to their strengths, creating opportunities to experiment, and helping them personalize the purpose of the work.
In our work with clients, we’ve seen the same thing. Employees who are encouraged to apply their skills and find purpose in their work are more motivated and engaged. And, the result often leads to more innovation in the workplace.
Check out Cable’s full article at the link above and feel free to share your thoughts here or on our Solutions Arts Facebook page.
Solutions Arts will be attending EIGHTeeN to Life's event this coming Sunday, March 18, 2018 in Hollywood, CA where we'll be meeting with cannabis business leaders to talk about how learning and development supports business success across the industry.
We'll see you there!
About the Event
A networking opportunity for leaders in the cannabis industry hand-picked for the ultimate collision of common interest with uncommon people. EIGHTeeN to Life is a monthly professional networking opportunity for leaders in the cannabis industry. The events are on the 18th of each month, celebrating the year 2018 when cannabis legalization became a reality in California.
Learning and development (L&D) is in the midst of a transition, and that's good news for learners. The demand to create learning ecosystems where corporate learning frameworks host a diverse mix of on-demand learner-centric opportunities is challenging learning professionals and industry tools to flex and change. Some key industry leaders are sounding the rally cry to dismantle static learning management systems (LMSs). However, LMSs aren't going away anytime soon, and some LMS providers are responding to clients' demands for technology solutions that offer lower complexity and cost, mobility, and custom learning experiences.
This shift is evident in eLearning Industry’s newly published list of the 20 best LMSs based on user experience. Take a look below at their list and the methodology they used to rank each vendor.
Solutions Arts works with a variety of clients across industries including the legal adult-use and medicinal cannabis industry. People outside the cannabis industry consistently ask the same question: what about workplace drug testing?
It seems inevitable that current state--and eventually, federal--laws will shift and change. Meanwhile, much of the law and policy conflicts are being waged in various states with different case law applying in different jurisdictions. Some states are reaching similar conclusions while others differ.
Ask Different Questions
It's time to shift from "what about drug testing," to the more relevant questions:
Schedule a Working Session
Off-site or full-day meetings are often unpopular and take key contributors and decision-makers out of the field and limit their availability to their teams. Not every company change needs to result in an off-site or full-day meeting. However, some issues do require key leaders, decision-makers, and functional area support to protect uninterrupted time to dive deep into an issue and emerge with an action plan. This is one of those situations.
What might a working session look like?
If appropriate, seize the opportunity to make this particular working session fun. Policy updates, although important, are historically boring snooze-fests. If the company culture is progressive, fun, and open, talk with your external partner about ways to infuse humor and education into the working session. For example, kick off the working session with a game that uncovers myths and stereotypes about cannabis use. Images or short clips from, Reefer Madness, not only remind attendees how far we've come, but they're also good for a laugh. Follow up the game with images of and stories about cannabis use in the mainstream (e.g., treatment protocols and successes with veterans, childhood epilepsy, adults with MS, and cannabis use in geriatric medicine) to provide a broad snapshot of changing times and when and how attendees might need tools and policies to discuss cannabis use with employees.
As some form of legal cannabis policy sweeps the nation, it makes sense for companies to proactively review and update policies now rather than waiting to pay court and attorney fees later.
Our clients rely on us as their secret weapon. When they engage us to analyze and resolve their performance improvement challenges, we tap our collective of highly specialized industry professionals. We leverage our set of advanced tools—both human and technological—and assemble the right set of skills to hit our clients’ mark. Every need is unique, and so should be each solution.
This ongoing series highlights the unique roles and skills that set Solutions Arts’ teams apart from our competition. No matter the project size, one thing remains constant: mission-critical business initiatives are safe in our professionals’ capable hands.
Interview with Solutions Arts’ team member, Kymberly Garrett
Question: What do you call what you do?
Kymberly Garrett (KG): My work has taken on a really interesting path over the last 30 years. I began my career in the hospitality industry in Learning & Development. This was a wonderful way to really understand the key components needed to support high-performing teams through creation and facilitating “just-in-time” learning applications.
My career then segued into the practice of Human Resources (HR) within the public, private, and start-up environments. This was a watershed next step in my career trajectory and really allowed me to build a sustainable toolkit in all facets of people matters.
The world of Talent Management and Talent Acquisition was a perfect finish to my career. The challenge, privilege, and pure joy of matching talent with opportunity proved to be a “true calling” for me!
Now, I am at my happiest in a consultancy role that encompasses all that I have been fortunate to attain PLUS new areas such as executive coaching and relationship building to business development for this amazing organization, Solutions Arts.
Question: What drew you to this kind of work? How long have you been in the industry?
KG: Great question! I tell my students and others all the time that HR chooses you or you choose HR! I think in my case, it’s a little of both! I was in college and met my mentor, who was the HR leader (then referred to as, Personnel) at the largest beer distribution company in the world. It started off as a summer job that my aunt arranged for me, but it really was the impetus for this fantastic vocation to “woo me and marry me”!
I realized two critical attributes that I organically possessed. One, was my innate ability to make darned precise diagnosis of organizational challenges and then transform them into people solutions. The second was that I have a naturally strong intellectual curiosity. This has allowed me to get completely immersed within the cultures that I have been fortunate enough to be invited into. I am always on the lookout for opportunities to align the business with its people, and that is why I thrive in all of the spaces that exist when speaking about the practice of HR. I am at my core a business person with an HR thought leader sensibility.
Question: What are your strengths? What sets you apart from the competition?
KG: I have an inordinate amount of energy that gets fueled only by more work! Someone once told me I was a blend of a work horse and a show horse; I rather like this visual. I have that balance of a strong work ethic and hold onto the fantasy that perfect exists, and most importantly, the hunt for excellence and perfection that takes hold of me as I chase it!
Question: What’s your sweet spot? What’s your passion?
KG: Connecting and aligning people is the BEST part of everything that I do! I love lessening the “six degrees to one or two degrees,” and creation of community really is where I thrive. I think of myself in terms of a “modern day Pied Piper,” and I am leading everyone to more great people and experiences!
Question: What challenges do clients typically seek your help to resolve? What are some common obstacles you see clients struggle with?
KG: After having spent time, resources, and energy managing the organizations within the confines of their blueprinted playbook, I get called in when it’s time to explore – “NEW.” A refresh on the status quo is where I live and bring value to my clients. Whether it’s narrowing operational or execution gaps to reassessing its human capital, organizations are all looking for what’s next...that’s my sweet spot!
Question: Would you share an example of the above?
KG: Sure…I was called into a very large security firm to better understand how they managed their “talent staffing problem.” In their view, they couldn’t staff enough people for the work that they had. After completing a pretty comprehensive organizational assessment, I realized that they didn’t have a staffing problem; they had a “jobs challenge.” The current state of the way their jobs were designed would always create a deficit. We moved more toward a “disruption model” that would allow for a flexible workforce similar to what the shared ride companies have done. We literally changed their staffing to more of a “gig” environment. This gave the staff more control to meet the demands the business dictated. It has been not only fluid in its approach, but also a money maker for the company! We created job levels for the independent teams to strive for that were incentive rich, and now they have talent literally begging to be a part of it!
Question: What best practices do you implement consistently?
Question: What would you like clients to know?
KG: The prescription for any challenge is a shared partnership. When they work with Solutions Arts, they should know they are accessing the most professional, talented crew assembled! We have worked in cubicles, offices, companies, just like our clients do every day, and we intimately understand the internal pressures that our clients face daily. Solutions Arts is there to align, partner, and support our clients’ needs with a rare sensitivity rooted in insight having been working corporate professionals vs. academic theory-based consultants who lack that awareness. Talent, passion, excellence, and professionalism are what set us apart.
About Solutions Arts
Solutions Arts is a performance improvement, custom learning and development organization rooted in proven organizational development and learning standards and practices. Our collective of freelance industry professionals possesses over 50 years of combined experience and a wealth of learning and development theory, practice, and technology at our clients’ disposal. SA delivers results on time, on budget, and with flair, offering clients creative and proven solutions to address business challenges.
Ask nearly any Learning and Development (L&D) professional about his/her efforts to evaluate training and the responses can be described as dismal, at best. L&D and organizational leaders alike recognize the value in collecting data to determine whether learning supports business results. Who hasn’t heard a leader ask for the business impact of learning? Yet organizations’ L&D often faces barriers that prevent them from delivering data-driven results.
Association for Talent Development’s (ATD’s) 2016 research report, Evaluating Learning: Getting to Measurements, surveyed 199 talent development professionals and found that only:
There’s room for improvement. So, what gets in the way? The same report asked participants a similar question.
Identifying and Overcoming Barriers
Participants reported challenges isolating the impact of learning on results and a lack of:
These barriers may be of no surprise. Still, what simple steps can an organization take to overcome them?
Let’s look at each barrier and lay out some tips to address them.
Access Critical Data
Make your product work for you! Once you identify what you want to measure, connect with your provider to discuss solutions. If the LMS has limited capabilities, what technology and systems exist in-house to help you achieve your goal? For example, is there an existing dashboard that could capture required information? Rethink current analytic processes and brainstorm on expanding functionality.
Evaluation is as much of a mindset as it is a strategy. Develop a two-pronged approach that aligns with the Kirkpatrick-Phillips model and apply that strategy at the onset of every project discovery discussion and beyond.
Yes, data collection often poses challenges, but don’t overthink it. Look for ways to simplify it. You don’t want or need ROI for every course or effort.
Consider some of the examples below, or use them to spark ideas for other methods to evaluate learning opportunities:
Maximizing resources, improving business impact, and creating value for learners are some of the outcomes an organization can achieve when evaluation obstacles are removed. It starts by creating an evaluation mindset, commitment, and culture. An organization’s efforts don’t have to be costly or time-consuming to accomplish evaluation goals that link to business outcomes. Developing an evaluation strategy can guide and automate efforts and set an organization on the right path.
Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post where we introduce Net Promoter Scores (NPSs) as an evaluation tool.
 Ho, M. (2016, April 07). Evaluating the Business Impact of Learning: Why Aren't More Organizations Doing It? Retrieved November 15, 2017, from https://www.td.org/Publications/Blogs/L-and-D-Blog/2016/04/Evaluating-the-Business-Impact-of-Learning
Our clients and the training community ask us questions and often consistent themes emerge. From making learning stick to developing skills we once assumed every employee possessed, the challenges today’s businesses face can be transformed through a strong learning culture.
Every year, the learning and development industry presents exciting developments, time-saving innovations, and new research. Solutions Arts follows and tests theories, practices, and technologies, and our clients benefit from what we learn. We value sharing what we learn and the opportunity to discuss it here on our blog.