The BBC has announced that it is adopting a ‘reverse mentoring’ scheme for managers who will now receive help and guidance from younger colleagues. The aim is that energetic, wide-eyed newbies will advise the older generation on youth trends and lifestyles in order to stem the audience exodus from traditional broadcasting channels.
Reverse mentoring is something which has been operating in tech industries for the last decade but is moving more mainstream as companies (and the workforce) struggle to keep up with fast-paced technological improvements.
The NHS – not known for its quick take up of managerial trends – has not jumped on the bandwagon just yet, at least not on paper. We remain fairly hierarchical with clear career paths in place that allow doctors to progress up the ranks, learning from several older influencers along the way.
In practice, however, we see examples of two-way learning all the time. I spoke to an orthopod recently with a very successful high-profile clinic. He told me he chose to continue with his NHS work not only to enjoy the greater variety of cases he undertook but also because he believed there was much to gain from working with his younger colleagues. They brought exciting new methods and techniques that he might not always agree with but the ensuing lively debate was good for the mind and the soul! (And they also helped him set up his twitter account.)
Senior doctors might quibble over who faces the harder times at the coalface – back then or now – but most are buoyed by the infectious enthusiasm that junior doctors bring, the new skills which refresh the team and the motivation to help others which has yet to be dimmed by decades of red tape and hierarchy. Reverse mentoring can also help senior staff get a real picture of what is going at lower levels and in the case of the NHS, what hardships and challenges younger members face.
Of course, despite the phenomenal advances in technology, nothing can come close to the value of a medic with four decades of hard-earned experience who is willing to train and to teach the next cohort.
With greater numbers of doctors facing tough times on the front-line, the greater the need for every member of staff to feel support both above and below. The average NHS worker is now taking more than 15 days off sick a year with stress leave at an all-time high. A cash-strapped organisation would be wise to look at the training potential of all staff – passing ideas up and down the corporate ladder.