Reverse mentoring, in its truest definition, refers to an initiative in which older employees are paired with, and mentored by, younger employees on a variety of themes such as technology, social media and current trends.
I know I’m the first one to point out many of the “millennial myths” out there. Especially when it comes to marketing strategies for your dealership. But I do, however, subscribe to the idea of building stronger teams at your dealership with reverse mentoring.
Building a mentorship program like this will not only help you to sell more cars. That's a given. But it can also create a positive dealership culture and even reduce staff turnover.
Additionally, I don’t necessarily think your dealership staff needs to be paired up as “millennial/older” for it to be successful. Reverse mentoring can also happen between new staff and veteran staff of any age. That’s really what I’m getting at here. Any mentorship should be based on the needs of both people involved, not simply on their ages.
All good leaders should be invested in the career growth of their team members, but don’t always look high when creating your mentor network. Colleagues have great insights about you that you may have overlooked. Mary Barra - CEO General Motors
HOW TO START A REVERSE MENTORING PROGRAM
Pairing green peas with veteran staff, of course, is foundational. But, let’s build some core pillars out to ensure success at the store.
IDENTIFY THE BEST PAIRINGS: Outline the specific needs of each of your staff (regardless of tenure). From there, build pairings best suited to mentor one another. Naturally, new hires need to learn the inner workings of your dealership and the timeless pillars of doing good business to keep customers coming back. Further, newer employees may have a grasp on CRM technology or video production from previous experiences. They can impart this knowledge on a vet who may need to improve in the areas of data entry or merchandising.
MAKE IT MORE THAN SOCIAL MEDIA: Don’t just create pairings to solve issues with tech adoption. Look at other valuable assets that newer staff members can impart on their veteran counter-parts. Younger staff can provide insights or ideas shared amongst their peers that may give you a unique advantage in your market. Every person on your team has experiences that they can share.
SET EXPECTATIONS: Once you have your pairings in place, make sure it is not only agreed upon, but documented for full accountability. Set the goals and timelines for both parties. How often they will meet with each other? How often will they meet with management to discuss their progress?
USE MULTIPLE APPROACHES: Not every department is the same. Your mentorship programs may need to be tailored to each department in order to get the most out of the individuals involved. Be open to changing tactics after a pairing has been established. Use check-ins with your pairings to evaluate if they need to pivot their focus to ensure success of the mentorship. Experiment with different ways to reward teams.
I know of an Automotive group in particular that actually put their pairings on a joint pay plan for 1 year to ensure their team's success. After that year, they reported that, while the teams were now separate, they continued to work with one another closely on several aspects of their responsibilities at the dealership.
DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS: Not every millennial is as “tech-savvy” as the next. Not every seasoned staff member is the best example of process and culture that you want from your team. Ensure you have thoroughly vetted your potential pairings to ensure they will get the most out of the mentorship.
WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
Reverse mentoring, when planned diligently, can be an asset to any store looking to evolve its culture, communication and accountability. It allows both parties to feel valued by your organization, regardless if they’ve been with you 20 years or 20 minutes. It can foster new ideas for the dealership to employ in market and help employees develop new skills they can turn into new opportunities within your organization.
For those in leadership roles helping execute this in store, remember to pair yourselves up as well. Full adoption of a mentorship program is only as strong as those championing it. I believe everyone has the capacity to evolve their skills and lean on each other through mentorship to move in the right direction.