Social Media in the C-Suite. Train Executives with Reverse Mentoring

Reverse Mentor Program for Social Media

Need Buy in From Your Executive Team on Social Media?

Do your senior executives’ eyes glaze over when you talk about using social media to drive branding and market share?  Are they leery of the benefits? Prefer to interact face-to-face than key-board-to-keyboard? Or afraid to admit they don’t get it or understand it?  That’s the challenge that many organizations are facing today.  Companies, senior leaders, and the C-Suite are struggling to embrace and understand the power of social media external as a marketing tool as well as internally with internal social networks.

As part of the Diversity and Inclusion strategy at The Hartford, we launched a Reverse Mentor Program to teach senior executives about social media, emerging technologies and related trends to drive business value. On the surface, the program is fairly straightforward- pair tech-savvy millennial employees with senior leaders, reaching across generations and organizational levels. But what evolved was so much more- relationships formed, there were “Aha Moments” and executives got the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of Millenials.  Most importantly, they learned about the powerful ways that people and businesses interacting using social media.

Social media offers an individual experience catered to the interests and goal of the user making it very complex.  Our reverse mentoring program at The Hartford helped answer common executive questions on social media:

  • How can employees communicate and knowledge share using internal social networking and collaboration tools
  • How social networking platforms like Twitter and Facebook are used for information and knowledge share as well as communication
  • How YouTube can be used as a training and information tool helping you improve your golf game
  • What is the ROI of social media but more importantly how younger generations are communicating and why

What is a Reverse Mentoring Program for Social Media?

Reverse mentoring” as a practice has been used by hundreds of companies on numerous topics.  Eight years ago, more than 500 executives at GE participate in a program to learn about the Internet and technology applications.  Jack Welch spearheaded the effort, which went on to bring significant changes in the way that GE worked.

In 2011, we “piloted” the Reverse Mentor program with our executive leadership and C-Suite team (CEO, CFO, Chief Risk Officer, Lines of Business Presidents, etc.) Due to the program’s success, we’ve expanded participation in 2012 to their direct reports and select departments.

The program consists of seven sessions, 30-60 minutes in length, scheduled approximately every three weeks. Topics include “Technology and Devices, The Power of Search and Online Presence, Networking, Connections and Communications”, etc. The sessions follow a broad outline that mentors can tailor to meet the experience level and interests of their mentee.

Social Media Program Learnings from the CEO

The pilot taught us that there are three phases in learning social media:

  • Gain trust & buy-in
  • “Aha moments” and key insights
  • Creative brainstorming

The first couple of sessions were about finding common ground- building trust; swapping app’s breaking down stereotypes and creating a challenging, interactive learning environment. Second phase, mentors respectfully offered ideas and help. Execs began to listen with an open mind… and saw value… and ideas and opportunities started flowing.

Working across generations helps realize the tremendous value of diverse perspectives, which often spur creativity and innovation.  The long-term success of any organizations depends on the contributions of employees from all ages and experiences.

Looking for a way garner executive buy-in for internal collaboration tools and social strategies?  Leverage the talent within your own organization to launch a Reverse Mentor Program.


Lisa Bonner is the Assistant Vice President of Contemporary Work Practices at The Hartford.  She is the proud mother of very active 14 year-old twin boys and resides in Suffield, Connecticut. Connect with her on LinkedIn.  The opinions expressed are personal and not related to The Hartford.

Posted in

Lisa Bonner

Lisa Bonner is an experienced change agent and Senior Vice President with Roberts Golden Consulting. She helps global Fortune 500 companies solve organizational issues and manage major changes to drive achievement of bold business objectives. Lisa is passionate about football, fitness, decorating and raising twin boys. Connect with Lisa.


Pin It on Pinterest