The value of reverse mentoring in the life sciences industry

Finding a mentor who can serve as a guide for their career is a goal for many young professionals. But reverse mentorship—when a younger, less experienced employee becomes a mentor—can be even more beneficial, as both parties stand to benefit. This is especially true in technology-driven sectors like the life sciences industry.

Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, popularized the concept of reverse mentorship in 1999. According to who Forbes. When the Internet was just becoming popular, he wanted to help senior executives teach young employees how to navigate the new technology.

At the time, Welch had no idea how much that early technology would evolve over the next two decades. But the role technology plays in every aspect of a working professional’s life today makes the concept of reverse mentoring more applicable now than ever.

Pharma giants and startups alike have implemented their own versions of these programs, hoping to help their employees themselves.

Takeda One of these companies is said Charlotte Owens, MD, vice president and head of the Center for Health Equity and Patient Affairs at Takeda. Biospace He sees reverse mentorship as a way to further diversify and build the talent the company already has. Charlotte Owens_Takeda

“At Tekda, our Center for Health Equity and Patient Affairs partners internally and externally to identify and eliminate health disparities — and it’s also about mentorships and internships,” Owens said. “We understand the need for diverse talent and see reverse mentorship as another opportunity to capitalize on that.”

Owens is also an assistant clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology. Morehouse School of Medicinewhere she trains and educates medical students and residents. He emphasized the importance of mentoring in the careers of young employees.

“Nothing is impossible” mentality

“Mentorship allows you to borrow someone else’s dream until you can clearly identify and achieve your own,” Owens said. “It provides space to create, gather advice and have clear conversations, which are all important components of advancing your professional career and building professional resilience.”

He also emphasized the value of reverse mentorship for more experienced team members. It’s no surprise that younger employees can help their mentees become more effective through technology, but Owens said there are some younger employees who value more — a positive attitude.

“Young employees have a ‘nothing is impossible’ mentality, without the fear or limitations we gain over time.”

Disrupting specific hierarchies

Still, there are challenges in implementing successful reverse mentoring programs, especially when they are first introduced. The most obvious challenge is the inevitable tension that comes with disrupting specific hierarchies or the status quo. Although accepting constructive criticism can be difficult for some, it is enhanced when there is an unusual power dynamic at play.

Another potential challenge in these programs is a lack of common interest, especially in an organization that does not prioritize diversity. Owens points out that in general, younger mentees will emulate their mentors, and it’s much easier for them to do so when they have a similar background or shared experiences with the mentor. But when that is not possible, one or both parties may become frustrated or discouraged and lose what they have learned.

“Studies show that we tend to choose career paths based on where we see ourselves and people like us … It’s important that we create pathways for more diverse talent within these programs and allow younger generations to see someone like them succeeding in their field.” Should have given it. Otherwise wouldn’t have thought to get in,” Owens said.

Cultivate a safe space for honest growth

The ultimate goal of both traditional mentorship and reverse mentorship is growth. And to achieve any kind of growth, there is a level of open-mindedness and willingness to change that must come first.

Fortunately, there is a way to help employees achieve this growth – by creating an environment where they feel safe. According to Owens, the first step is to cultivate a space where employees feel comfortable being honest without fear of retaliation or resentment.

After that, it’s even more important for both senior and junior employees to accept feedback without judgment and learn from it, Owens said.

“Sometimes, honest feedback can be difficult to get, but it’s essential to better understanding people, your team, and even yourself,” Owens said.

And when a reverse mentorship program is successful, it can have an impact that touches every aspect of the company.

“This is the kind of effort [in creating a safe environment] In a mentorship program that promotes better productivity, motivation and increased contribution to valued employees across the organization,” concluded Owens.

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