Reverse mentoring is a process that pairs younger people/employees with older/executive team members to mentor them on various topics of strategic and cultural relevance. This approach has precedent: in the late 1990s, it was used reverse mentoring to teach senior executives about the Internet. But modern reverse mentoring extends far beyond just sharing knowledge about technology; today’s programs focus on how senior executives think about strategic issues, leadership, and the mindset with which they approach their work.
The process recognizes that there are skill gaps and opportunities to learn on both sides of a mentoring relationship and that flipping the traditional format on its head can be beneficial for both parties. It also challenges the idea of mentoring being elitist, as it’s not about a senior person taking someone under their wing, but a formal relationship for the purpose of skill sharing and professional development.
In our research, we found three main benefits of reverse-mentoring programs.
Increased retention of Millennials. Reverse-mentoring programs provide Millennials with the transparency and recognition that they’re seeking from senior management.
Sharing of digital skills. While digital skill development should not be the focus of a reverse-mentoring program, many of the companies we researched mentioned that it was a meaningful part of the relationship.
Promoting diversity. Reverse-mentoring programs can improve leadership’s understanding of minority issues, including those of LGBTQIA+ and ethnic minorities.
A single age group often dominated workplaces in the past, but today we see a more diverse mix of ages and generations. For that reason, organizations need to ensure all generations are represented and respected.
Further examples of a reverse mentoring relationship include:
- A VP of finance receiving mentorship from a junior analyst on the latest fin-tech trends
- A veteran sales executive coached by a recent college graduate on the best way to use social media for marketing and business development
- An employee of colour mentoring a Gen X manager on the latest trends in diversity and inclusion when it comes to minority issues.
By Shanice Juma
4th-year Creative Business Student at NHL Stenden University