Reverse Mentoring

The Ultimate Guide to Reverse Mentoring

4 min read
Lynsey May Sutherland
Lynsey Sutherland

Mentoring is a fabulous way to boost career development, expand skills and grow workplace relationships, but have you ever heard of reverse mentoring? 

If not, now might be the time to learn more about how this handy up-skill method can reduce the generation gap, improve retention, and create valuable generational knowledge sharing.  

What is reverse mentoring?

When we think about the mentoring relationship, we tend to imagine an older person taking a younger one under their wing. That can be an incredibly fulfilling relationship for both parties, but it’s not the only kind of mentoring there is. 

Reverse mentoring, where junior employees share skills with their seniors, is a valuable addition to the roster. 

What are the benefits of reverse mentoring?

Everyone has skills gaps, even if they don’t realise it, and reverse mentoring can be a more effective way of addressing them than e-learning or training courses. Because the ultimate goal is a knowledge share that benefits all generations, the benefits go both ways. 

Reverse mentoring can positively affect diversity, inclusivity, and engagement, as well as reduce churn among younger workers. In fact, an investment company experienced a 96% retention rate for its first cohort of millennials who became mentors.

Encouraging skill sharing is also fantastic for developing high-performing leaders, as it increases opportunities to foster communication and management skills in mentors. 

How reverse mentoring can transform your workplace

The wonderful thing about it is that as well as helping to increase anything from digital knowledge to soft skills like improved communication, it can help build a friendlier and stronger workforce. 

It can also be vital in shifting a workplace culture, helping an organisation move into a new phase or becoming more open and inclusive. All of which can make a company a more welcoming place to work – something that’s essential as we see the effects of The Great Resignation continue to reverberate.  

of American’s think there is a generation gap

It’s clear that it’s something on the minds of many modern businesses and employees. Reverse mentoring is a great way to address this and demystify the mindset and skills of various generations.

Source: Nielsen

How to introduce reverse mentoring – and make the most of it!

There are a few important things to think about to make the most of a reverse-mentoring program. Here’s how to get your list started. 

Create a solid structure and objectives 

First, you need to think about what you would like to achieve. 

Are you looking to improve the digital understanding of some of your most senior employees? Would you like for your executives to experience new perspectives? Do you want to improve the diversity and inclusivity of your organisation?

Once you know your primary objectives, you can start thinking about how long you would like the scheme to run for, how you will track its metrics and your expected duration, then when it’s time to introduce the program to your workforce, be prepared to answer plenty of questions!

Spend plenty of time on matchmaking

The success of any mentoring program lies in the matches between mentors and mentees. It can be imperative to reverse mentoring, as senior staff members may resist being led by their juniors. 

Be sure to consult with both parties beforehand and allow some level of veto to ensure the exercise gets off to a good start. It’s also best to try and pair up diverse personalities, introverts with extroverts, for example.  

Be open about any mentee concerns 

It’s entirely possible that your mentees may feel a little fearful or undermined by the idea of ceding control to a younger mentor. Rather than pretend this isn’t the case, discuss those potential issues openly and make space for open and empathetic communication. 

Showing vulnerability can be difficult, especially for people who have worked themselves into a position of power. There are significant benefits to opening up and being vulnerable, but it should always come from a place of psychological safety and trust. 

Give your mentors plenty of training and support 

Executive and senior staff members tend to have busy workloads, which means that even if they approach the program enthusiastically, their commitment may dwindle over time. That’s where the younger mentors will be required to step up and keep the scheme on target.

The best way to help them do this is to offer plenty of support and training. It may be their first time in any mentoring relationship, much less one where they are in charge. This training can be a great part of an employee development program.

Create a social framework for the program

A great way to improve the prospect of your reverse mentoring program is to build in plenty of opportunities for socialising and relaxed communication. Why not throw a party when you launch? And set aside time for team activities at regular intervals. 

Monitor and assess the program as it progresses

To get the most out of any development program, it’s wise to monitor it closely. Book out calendar time for ongoing evaluation right at the start and use surveys, interviews and check-ins to see if any adjustments are needed along the way.

Equip your teams to take advantage of the possibilities of reverse mentoring, and you might be surprised by how far generational knowledge sharing can take you. 

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