Reverse Mentoring – An Introduction


There are many different approaches to mentoring, including ‘reverse mentoring’. Reverse mentoring, also known as ‘upward mentoring,’ flips the more traditional mentoring model on its head.

Typically, mentoring entails a more senior experienced person mentoring a junior level individual (the mentee). This relationship seeks to develop the mentee’s skills and knowledge through support and guidance. The mentor may be older or more qualified individuals. More information on the fundamentals of mentoring can be found in our previous blog.

Instead of having a more senior person take them under their wing, when it comes to reverse mentoring – the mentee becomes the more senior person’s guidance and support.

Why would someone consider the Reverse Mentoring approach?

Reverse mentoring recognises that there are skill gaps and opportunities on both sides of a mentoring relationship. Reverse mentoring also challenges the notion that mentors must be senior or subject matter experts. Mentoring is more than just a senior person taking someone younger or less qualified under their wing. It is about establishing a formal relationship between two people – one as a mentee eager to learn and the other as a mentor eager to support others – for the purpose of skill sharing. ‍

The goal of reverse mentoring is to enable leaders and senior managers to stay current on the business or organisation as well as advancements in the outside world that they might not otherwise have the opportunity to, such as technology.

The advantages and benefits of reverse mentoring are similar to those of a traditional mentor-mentee relationship in that more junior individuals have the opportunity to understand, learn from, and be heard by more experienced people.

Younger Mentor, showing older Mentee how to work an online device.

The Benefits Of Reverse Mentoring

As with any type of mentoring, there are numerous advantages to reverse mentoring, which vary depending on your specific business, educational setting, or organization’s goals. Reverse mentoring is more likely to emphasise inclusion, participation, and perspective.

Among the benefits are:

  • Promoting Inclusion & Diversity 

Pairing more senior members of the team with a diverse range of junior employees can help drive empathy and bring issues like (unconscious) bias to the forefront. This can help to improve retention rates and diversify the workforce.

  • Developing a Learning Culture 

Reverse mentoring provides learning experiences and opportunities for the entire workforce and with a massive 94% of young employees stating they would stay at a company for longer if they were offered opportunities to develop and grow within the company and their careers, providing a programme is a great step in the right direction to creating a culture of learning and development within your business.

  • Bridging generational divides 

Reverse mentoring can help close generational gaps. If a business is eager to keep up with the latest trends in technology, listening to the younger members of the workforce may be the best place to start! 

  • Developing younger employees’ leadership abilities 

Reverse mentoring programmes are built around the idea that a senior staff member can learn a lot from a younger member of the team.

But, as with all types of mentoring – this learning process works two ways. Reverse mentoring allows younger workers the opportunity to develop confidence, as well as leadership and communication skills. 

Not only does reverse mentoring provide the benefits listed above, but it can also help to break down stereotypes about various age groups. However, reverse mentoring isn’t just about age. New employees of any age can bring new perspectives and ways of working. Whatever perspective you take, it is clear that reverse mentoring creates opportunities to diversify skill sets.

Challenges Of Reverse Mentoring

Setting up a mentoring programme requires time and effort, and there may be challenges along the way. This is true for all mentoring approaches, so let’s look at reverse mentoring and its potential drawbacks.

Reverse mentoring is intended to be a positive experience for those involved; however, for some companies or businesses with challenging generational dynamics, there may be some pushback at first, or there may be less interest upon signup than hoped.

Depending on the goals of mentoring, it may be difficult for individuals to devote the time necessary to fully immerse themselves in the programme. This may have an impact on initial signups, or it may be an issue that arises as the programme or mentoring relationships progress.

To alleviate concerns about this, as an organisation or business, it might be a good idea to give staff members, for example, a set hour a week where they can carry out the mentoring – or perhaps there are communication tools that can be used.

Building Successful Reverse Mentoring Relationships

As with any mentoring relationship, there are a few things to consider when it comes to mentoring matchmaking, including –

Identifying Potential Mentoring Partners

Any mentoring relationship must have a positive chemistry between the participants. Mentees should be matched with mentors who have the skills and knowledge that they are interested in, and mentors should be engaged and excited about providing the necessary guidance.

Setting Mentoring Goals and Expectations Early On

We recently published an article on the importance of goal setting in mentoring, and reverse mentoring is no exception.

Mentors and mentees must spend time at the start of the relationship discussing expectations and ensuring that goals are aligned. Consider what each person hopes to gain from the relationship, as well as any specific skills they wish to learn.

Furthermore, expectations should be managed, such as how frequently you will meet and where the discussions or mentoring will take place.

Measuring Your Mentoring Progress

Once the mentoring relationship is ‘up and running,’ it is crucial to check in on a regular basis to ensure that you are both satisfied with the relationship. Compare the outcomes to the initial goals – are they being met? Why not, if not?

Measuring progress allows both parties to re-evaluate the relationship and make any necessary changes to improve the experience.

Remember that sometimes mentoring partners simply do not work out for one reason or another. If an organisation finds that their matches are failing regularly, this would be an opportunity to look over the matchmaking process to make improvements.

Final Thoughts

Reverse mentoring provides a great opportunity to your young employees to gain valuable skills such as leadership and communication, as well as making them feel appreciate and valued – by giving them the opportunity to teach and work with more senior staff members.

With numerous benefits to the business, and those within the mentoring relationship – we recommend working towards reverse mentoring within your organisation.

If you have a mentoring programme and would like to source a suitable platform on which to run it, saving to administration time and money – reach out to the sfG MentorNet team for a free demonstration of our online mentoring platform.