Reverse Mentoring – Cisco’s Successful Mentor Program

Cisco’s Reverse Mentoring Program had great success. Learn more about Reverse Mentoring Programs.

Cisco’s Reverse Mentoring Program had great success, and found five major themes lauraEarle of Ciscobecame recurring topics. Laura Earle wrote several blogs for the Cisco Diversity and Inclusion blog about the employee experience. The key themes that emerged were Communication, Leadership, Cultural Knowledge, Team Relationships and Change Management. This Cisco Mentor Program was a success due the matches between the mentor and the mentee and the structure of the mentor program.

In Cisco’s Reverse Mentoring programme to encourage Inclusion and Diversity, Laura described the program as one where individual contributors were paired with Senior Executives. Most reverse mentoring programs focus on cross generational differences, with a Millennial/Gen Y employee mentoring a Baby Boomer. Cisco’s Reverse Mentoring program was sponsored by Inclusion and Diversity Ambassador Network and the Early in Career Network, so the net effect was probably the same, but the language may have helped the mentor program’s business appeal.

In Laura’s first blog, she also discussed the clear goals and objectives of the Reverse Mentor Program. Its goal was to spark discussion about diversity of experience and thought and a joint learning opportunity. While all mentor programs have learning as a goal, having goals, including shared learning, explicitly spelt out, along with a structured program to achieve those goals (like the one built into WisomShare®) makes a mentor program more impactful.

In her second blog, written at the conclusion of the six month program, Laura focused on the benefits of the reverse mentoring program. These included:

Shared Learning – Most mentors and mentees felt the programme was valuable and they walked away having a greater understanding of another team inside of Cisco, how it operates, what drives the team for success and the challenges that organization faces.

Honesty/Respect – Many people said they enjoyed having an open and honest exchange of ideas and best practices. Mentors felt that their feedback was valued and well received which encouraged them to be as honest as possible.

Relationship -- Quite a few people said they enjoyed getting to know someone who they wouldn’t have normally engaged with at work who gave them a completely different perspective. This wasn’t just about “talking business” but actually spending valuable time getting to know someone and understanding the challenges they face.

Where there was a good match, mentors and mentees said they would stay in touch beyond the six months. In other organizations, this has been shown to strengthen the corporate culture and to meaningfully improve engagement and the career path of the individuals.
Because Cisco has been through a huge amount of change in the last year, change management was a popular discussion topic for mentors and mentees. Some mentees were managing a new team and wanted help with connecting with that team; all wanted a fresh perspective on their team and group. 

A well-managed mentoring program, with clear goals and structure, as well as strong mentor/mentee matching capability is an important tool to developing talent within the organization. A strong mentor program can foster strong business relations between diverse individuals and help solidify knowledge transfer and the achievement of organizational goals. Increased confidence, competence, career planning, and cultural awareness are gained by both parties. (Let us know if you would like to discuss this with a MentorGuru directly.) This results in high levels of employee satisfaction and engagement, loyalty, and reduced turnover. WisdomShare™ (click here to learn more) is the leading mentor-matching algorithm in the market – and mentoring relationships flourish when the right pairings of people occurs.

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