The ACE Reverse Mentoring Pilot
By Phil Armitage
22 June 2018
Reverse mentoring (as the name suggests) flips traditional mentoring around, so that less experienced staff become mentors to their seniors. The idea is to exchange skills and knowledge with the understanding that each person can help the other to improve.
Last June, the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) launched its 9-month reverse mentoring pilot scheme. The pilot, initiated by the Progress Network - ACE’s group for early year professionals and emerging leaders – focussed on the use of technology in business as a demonstration theme. Technology is often used in examples of reverse mentoring, as it is felt that many younger people are more fluent with newer technologies. The aim is to use the juniors’ experience and knowledge of these technologies to help senior staff members gain a greater understanding and therefore help improve efficiency and output.
Vincent (mentor) and I (mentee) joined the ACE pilot alongside pairs from six other ACE members. We chose to explore collaborative working tools, as we felt it was particularly relevant to the across-groups and across-offices way of working at Max Fordham.
We held meetings remotely via desktop video conferencing (appear.in), communicated through a business focussed online collaboration portal (Flock), and used cloud based documents (Google drive) to test the working environment. Once we got over the initial awkwardness, working in this way became effective. The tools also meant we were able to keep the pilot going after Vincent had moved to Australia. The technology worked well - the hardest aspect to overcome was the time difference!
Vincent and I attended a number of pilot review meetings, where we presented our progress and the work that we were doing. I also attended the final pilot scheme review meeting and summarised our experience as a short presentation from the floor.
The pilot scheme opened my eyes to a number of things and led me to the following conclusions:
- the generation gap is smaller than perceived, at least at Max Fordham
- the reverse mentoring model could be positively used to drive change, by coupling someone with an idea with someone in a position to influence the practice
- there are many benefits of creating forums for younger people to engage with more experienced people on a similar footing. Our mentoring scheme is good, but is generally set up in the expectation that the more experienced person provides one-way guidance to the less experienced person.
We'll be taking these lessons learnt and using them to continue to improve our own in-house mentoring scheme at Max Fordham.
Phil Armitage is a Senior Partner in our Cambridge office and can be contacted on 01223 240 155 and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.