Page Updated on May 12, 2022

What is reverse mentoring?

In the past, the older and more experienced employee would usually act as the mentor, and the younger and less experienced employee would be the mentee.

With reverse mentoring, there is much less focus on age, with young employees coaching and mentoring older staff.

One such example is the skills that a younger more IT literate employee might be able to teach an older member of staff who lacks modern IT and computing skills.

Likewise, younger staff might be far more experienced on social media and how to market using social media, as opposed to marketing using traditional methods. A younger employee can often provide a lot of guidance and help to older employees.

In other words, the focus of reverse marketing moves away from the idea that a mentor has to be an older person who offers the mentoring.

As you can imagine, there can be many benefits of reverse mentoring in the workplace, and these are looked at below!

1. Benefits of Reverse Mentoring

Young mentors in the workplace

There are many benefits to reverse mentoring, both for the individuals involved and for the organization as a whole.

For the individual employees, reverse mentoring can provide a chance to learn new skills and knowledge from someone with more experience.

It can also help younger employees to build their confidence and improve their communication and interpersonal skills.

For the organization, reverse mentoring can help to create a more diverse and inclusive culture, and can also help to transfer knowledge and expertise from one generation to the next.

You will often in fact find that reverse mentoring provides a newfound appreciation and respect for the younger employees in the company and it helps some interesting friendships develop.

Reverse mentoring can, for example, lead to more experienced employees choosing also in turn help younger and less experienced employees, taking the younger person under their wing and also helping back in return.

2. How To Get Started With Reverse Mentoring in Your Workplace

The program should be designed to meet the specific needs of the organization and the people involved.

If you’re thinking about starting a reverse mentoring program in your organization though, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, it’s important to identify the goals and objectives of the program and to match employees to mentors who can help them to achieve those goals.

It’s also important to provide training and support for both the mentors and mentees, and to create a system for monitoring and evaluating the progress of the program.

Some things to consider when planning a reverse mentoring program include the:

  • goals of the program
  • needs of the participants
  • type of mentoring relationships that will be established
  • length of the program
  • frequency and location of meetings
  • format of meetings
  • evaluation process

It is also important to consider the logistics of the program, such as how it will be funded and how participants will be selected.

Once the program is up and running, it is then important to monitor and evaluate the progress of the program to ensure that it is meeting its goals.

3. Examples of Reverse Mentoring

One example of a company that has employed reverse mentoring is Google.

The tech giant has found that by pairing younger employees with more experienced ones, they are able to bridge the generation gap and improve communication across the board.

This has led to a more cohesive workforce overall.

Another example comes from the retail sector.

Macy’s implemented a reverse mentoring program a few years ago in order to help its employees better understand the millennial demographic.

Macy’s found that by having older workers learn from their younger counterparts, they were able to improve sales and better connect with their target audience.

Reverse mentoring can be an effective way for companies to improve communication and understanding across generational lines.

By pairing younger and older employees together, businesses can help bridge the gap between them and create a more cohesive workforce.

4. Challenges of Reverse Mentoring & How to Overcome Them

There can be some challenges though with reverse mentoring.

Reverse mentoring older generations

1. One of the main challenges of reverse mentoring is that it can be difficult to find someone who is willing to mentor you, especially if you are in a senior position.

It can be difficult for someone in a lower position to feel comfortable mentoring their boss.

Solution: You will want to instill a feeling of Psychological Safety in your workplace.

Create an atmosphere such that employees feel able to freely speak up without any fears and where staff feel valued.

2. Another challenge is that it can be difficult to establish trust between the mentor and mentee.

This is because there is a power differential between the two people.

The mentee may feel like they have to act a certain way in order to please their mentor, which can lead to tension and conflict.

Solution: I feel that communication can solve the majority of any lack of trust between the mentor and mentee.

Make it clear to those involved why they have been chosen and the skills that each person has that should be valued for. As the organizer, set the tone for the mentoring with introductions and a brief.

Make the benefits clear to each party and make the skills of both known too.

3. Reverse mentoring also requires time and effort from both parties

In a business environment, time can of course be limited.

Providing what in effect is free in-house training in the form of reverse mentoring, can be extremely cost-effective though.

You are, in essence, utilizing skills that already exist in your company, to help others continue developing.

Do the reverse mentoring correctly and you will end up with:

  • a far more skilled workforce (upskilling takes place)
  • strong work teams developing and increased levels of respect between different generations
  • a more united workforce
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Dr Valeria (Lo Iacono) Symonds

Valeria has been involved with education for over 16 years. She has taught in the UK at the University of Bath and Cardiff Metropolitan University (where she got her PhD), in addition to working as a researcher at Exeter University. Valeria additionally has several years of experience of also working with Ofsted and Cardiff University in management roles & is she is the founder of Symonds Training.

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