What Is Reverse Mentoring And How You Can Use It

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For several reasons, today companies find it challenging to retain employees. Older workers are retiring, while millennials have the most potential to resign.

At the same time, entry-level employees tend to be younger and join departments with a significant generation gap. This situation makes it hard for them to connect and collaborate with senior colleagues.

Many companies are implementing mentoring programs to deal with today’s workplace issues. These programs help to close the existing skills gaps.

In fact, evidence has shown that mentoring relationships form stable work teams and departments. They improve communication skills and produce future leaders.

Most organizations opt for a traditional mentoring program in which a senior leader or employee plays the mentor. The main goal of this program is for younger workers to learn new skills and have a smooth onboarding process.

But there is more to mentoring than the traditional approach. By fostering mentoring relationships with a different dynamic, businesses get even better results.

This article will explore the numerous benefits of reverse mentoring. You will learn how to foster these relationships within your company.

In addition , you will get a 7-step guide to building a successful mentoring program. First, read below to find out what reverse mentoring involves.

Reverse Mentoring Relationship – What is it?

The reverse approach represents an opposite experience to the traditional mentoring relationship. It is more experiential and less rigid, which fits the demands of the fast-paced modern world.

The junior employee guides the process and, as such, plays the role of mentor. They bring newly acquired knowledge, a fresh perspective, much-needed technology skills, and a more open mind. This switch of positions leads to the alternate designation of upward mentoring.

The goal is for senior team members to understand developments in the industry and learn new techniques, like digital skills. They also connect more with their organization and gain a deeper understanding of its progress and needs.

Doing so obliterates the idea that senior managers are inaccessible and arrogant. Instead, there is a sense of respect, belonging, and significance within all seniority levels.

Nonetheless, junior employees have the opportunity to relate directly with the management. They develop leadership skills and feel more connected to the company and its purpose.

Although older employees tend to be more experienced, age is not a determinant factor. What matters most is that the mentee is a more senior employee within the organization than the mentor.

Still, this formal program will be more successful if the match is between workers of different ages. They will have more to learn from each other and will produce better results in the long run.

This mentoring relationship enables mentors and mentees to grow together. They should feel valued and free to communicate different perspectives throughout the process.

The benefits that come from sharing knowledge and developing new skills extend to the company.

When and Why Should You Employ Reverse Mentoring Programs?

Knowing when to establish a mentoring program is crucial for it to have a positive impact. Consider the following questions:

  • Are attrition levels rising? If so, why?
  • Do senior executives have difficulty making strategic decisions? Do they keep up with technological advancements?
  • Also, do they engage with junior team members or form a separate group?
  • Are younger employees motivated?
  • Do minority groups feel represented within the company? Are they as included and valued as other workers?
  • What about company growth? Has it developed as expected, or is it becoming stagnant?

The answers will help you decide if a reverse mentoring program could improve your company culture. All of these aspects influence your business development and often dictate its evolution.

So if now is the time, start defining a clear strategy to implement your program as soon as possible. You must prepare in advance and be proactive to motivate others to join.

Think about the senior employees in your business. They will be the focal point of the reverse mentoring relationships. The program is, first and foremost, designed for them.

These executive mentees understand the business concept but might lack modern digital skills. Hence, as you outline your action plan, remember what makes reverse mentoring important.

It can help your senior leaders make trustworthy decisions and manage with more skill and confidence. Besides, junior employees will feel encouraged to use their expertise in the organization.

How to Employ Reverse Mentorship?

Reverse mentorship does more than answer common challenges of the corporate world. It can help your company reach decisive goals and continue moving forward.

You have already considered some of the benefits of reverse mentoring programs. Yet, because it is so impactful, it can apply to many different areas within your organization.

Below, you will find 10 ways to make the most of this method.

Introduce New Viewpoints

New technologies continue to reshape the way people live and work. They affect most common processes and even eliminate some.

For your business to succeed, you need to know which advancements relate to your industry. Besides, your workers must be open to implementing these modern means in everyday tasks.

Still, discussing digital topics with some of your more senior employees is a complex chore. That is where a reverse mentoring program is of help.

You can use junior employees to introduce new work philosophies and viewpoints. They will be keen to support you when you implement social media marketing and other modern digital skills.

A reverse mentoring program will also prepare them to teach others. They will create crucial strategies for their professional development.

Reinforce DE&I Measures

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) are consequential subjects. Businesses today are more concerned with creating safe work environments for all employees.

Upward mentoring can have a paramount influence on organizations. It facilitates the implementation of measures that promote diversity within the workplace.

A mentoring program helps senior leaders understand the challenges their junior mentors face. They get first-hand knowledge of the opportunities, resources, and treatment they receive in the company.

Throughout the relationship, mentees learn about the perspectives and experiences of younger employees. They will become more aware of issues regarding minority representation and will be better prepared to approach them.

Even so, senior executives should actively promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. Not only is their influence more impactful than any other, but they also have the responsibility to set an example for other employees.


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Fight Generational Stereotypes

Stereotypes within your company can stop your workers from cooperating efficiently. A reverse mentorship program will help you approach the skills gaps within your departments.

The younger generation keeps up with the digital transformation affecting the industry. Yet, it is less motivated to fulfill everyday tasks. Still, a misconceived idea of the senior person can stop them from resorting to their colleagues for advice.

Employees of the older generation tend to adopt a defensive posture to the idea of cooperating with a younger person. They might keep up to date with the latest technology, but they are likely to maintain some distance from their junior colleagues.

To reap the advantages of a multi-generational workforce, you must fight these stereotypes. Doing so will also enable your workers to develop a more open mind.

Improve Millennial Retention

Younger employees, particularly Millennials, are the most likely to quit. They present several reasons like company priorities, plans, and standards.

To maintain Millennial talent, you must show that you care about their viewpoints and well-being. The reverse mentoring relationship offers an excellent opportunity to do that.

Senior management can show interest in younger employees. In addition, a millennial mentor will be able to understand the viewpoints of company leadership.

They will be more motivated to continue in their current roles. And they will bring more benefits to the operation with their expertise.

Boost Creativity and Innovation

Businesses must find innovative solutions for internal and external challenges to remain competitive. This creative process demands that employees keep an open mind.

In a reverse mentoring relationship, mentors and mentees get to know each other’s viewpoints. Sharing expertise, ideas, and techniques fosters ideas that step out of conventions and put companies one step ahead.

Promote a Self-renewal Mindset

The truth is that having specific abilities is insufficient for employees to be ever-valuable. They must continue to develop as individuals and professionals.

A reverse mentoring program does more than allow participants to create new skills. It also promotes their maintenance and growth.

Your company can benefit from its employees’ full potential by fostering a self-renewal mindset. The junior person feels heard and valued as they guide the relationship. Senior employees get many opportunities to share their expertise, despite having younger mentors.

Share Digital Skills

Right now, most processes include digital tools. It is crucial for companies that their employees are savvy in using these tools.

Technological advancements affect every single line of work. They keep improving business operations and demand constant updates.

Of course, the need for workers to be proficient in using technology will depend on their department and role. Regardless, they most likely will have to gain basic knowledge of some tools.

For example, some employees will adapt better than others when you install cloud-based computing. Their adjusting times will vary, and they will need different types of assistance.

A reverse mentoring program can help you smooth out the adjusting process to new work methods. A junior employee already skilled in using them can support their senior colleague.

Teach Business Competences to Junior Employees

A younger person fresh out of school can feel overwhelmed when adapting to the corporate world and its demands. At the same time, a new employee might find it hard to face a change of organization or department. After all, this shift will imply a new environment, team, and responsibilities.

In such cases, you can use a reverse mentoring program to support their onboarding process. Becoming mentors to their senior colleagues can help them adjust without feeling discouraged.

The mentees will convey the methods, approaches, and standards applied. Additionally, they will become a sounding board as mentees develop more confidence.

Increase Employee Engagement

Trends are changing, and company loyalty is not what it used to be. Younger employees now do not feel bound to their employers. Instead, they want to feel supported and valued.

Offering them the chance to become mentors provides the recognition they need to feel encouraged. Not only do they stick to their roles, but they also participate more actively in business operations and discussions.

Reverse mentoring promotes the creation of unique bonds that last for many years. These relationships provide the recognition and sense of belonging that all employees need.

Empower Emerging Leaders

The employees onboarding today are the leaders of tomorrow. Still, consistent and diligent leadership demands skills they do not yet possess.

Upward mentoring can be the key to helping younger employees develop the abilities necessary to take on managing roles. They regularly connect with senior executives and learn critical leadership skills from them.

Besides, the reverse mentoring process also builds trust, especially among mentors. As junior workers in the program develop their organizational skills, you will notice how their enthusiasm grows.

This newfound confidence helps them continue maturing and preparing to become exemplary leaders.

How Can You Build a Reverse Mentoring Program?

Building a reverse mentoring program seems complex, but it becomes easier with a strategic plan. The first step to succeed in this task is to establish a clear goal. It will serve as a guiding light for the whole operation. After this, there are 6 more measures you must take.

Set Specific Standards

You want to define precise parameters for your reverse mentoring program and its participants. You can choose the enrollment methods and set how to promote your program. Now is also the time to draft a schedule to meet your predefined goal.

Gain Leadership Support

Any mentoring program requires approval from managerial levels. Nevertheless, reverse mentoring falls so out of conventions that it is better to gain support from most executives.

As you pitch the program, remember your goal is for them to partake in it. They should act as examples to other employees.

Identify Potential Partners

The matching process is a crucial step for successful reverse mentoring. Regardless of whether you use mentoring software, mentors and mentees need to be able to identify with one another.

They must share core values, and their expertise, goals, and needs should be complementary. You can use a SWOT analysis to help you make more suitable choices.

Arrange for Proper Funding

The advantages of reverse mentoring largely outgrow the investment it requires. Still, there are costs associated that your organization will have to bear.

You can request an increase in Human Resources department funds to support the project. It would be positive to have an employee dedicated to managing the relationships. Plus, there might be more expenses if external mentors also follow the program.

Set a Regular Meeting Schedule

From the beginning, you must establish a regular meeting schedule. All participants should know its details, including progress goals and meetings.

It will be best for mentors and mentees to meet for at least one hour each week. Doing so will allow them to better understand and adapt to each other.

They will discuss current matters, challenges, and strategies. Meetings provide opportunities for developing new ideas and work concepts.

They can become practices for specific skills or counseling sessions. The participants might use reverse mentoring meetings to celebrate personal and professional achievements.

Monitor Progress

The last step is measuring progress. You will gauge it according to the standards and parameters you defined in the first and second steps.

You should also arrange opportunities for receiving feedback from the participants. Use these meetings to foster brainstorming and free sharing of opinions and ideas.

Conclusion on Reverse Mentoring and Its Uses

Throughout this article, you have gotten to know reverse mentoring in detail. This approach is unlike the traditional method, yet just as advantageous, if not more.

You have learned about its advantages and when it is best applied. It brings a new perspective to your company, boosts creativity, and fosters cooperative teams.

Senior employees benefit from their younger colleagues’ knowledge and improve their technological skills. Junior workers get to share their expertise and learn crucial leadership skills.

You also had the chance to understand how to employ reverse mentoring. You explored how it helps build a more inclusive and diverse workforce. And you got to see how your company can be free of generational stereotypes and attrition.

Finally, you received a 7-step guide to creating a successful reverse mentoring program. Remember that this project requires adequate funding. Also, all participants should know the standards and expectations.

Implementing reverse mentoring in your organization will offer you great benefits. Plus, with this outline, you will be able to set it up in little time and with maximum impact.

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Olga Tosic
Olga Tosic

Project Manager