Learning & Development

What Is Reverse Mentoring?

Implementing a mentoring program has many benefits. Mentors and mentees alike can benefit from things like increased job satisfaction and improved morale. Everyone involved may end up improving their work and leadership capabilities. The simple act of having a mentoring program may result in improved teamworking and a better ability for employees to understand the perspective of others in the organization. It may even benefit recruiting and retention efforts.

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Even if your organization has a mentoring program in place, you may still benefit from a form of mentoring called reverse mentoring. With a typical mentoring relationship, the employee with greater seniority and experience with the organization is usually the mentor, taking on a mentee who is comparatively new to the organization or department.

With reverse mentoring, usually the opposite happens. In this scenario, typically a younger employee will be the mentor, and the mentee will be someone who is comparatively more experienced but may not have the same skill set as the younger employee. Some skills that are second nature to new hires, like ease of learning new software and other technology, may be less intuitive for more experienced workers.

Benefits of Reverse Mentoring Programs

Here are a few of the benefits of implementing reverse mentoring:

  • It empowers newer employees and makes them feel trusted.
  • The young mentors can gain important leadership skills if they’re able to navigate the situation well.
  • It can allow experienced employees to stay up-to-date longer on newer technology without the need for more formal training. They can adapt to changing workplace technologies and trends like social media, phone messaging apps, crowdsourcing, or other new software.
  • It can provide insights. This time can be used to train more experienced employees on what the younger generation values and needs from the employer.
  • Both sides can learn more about the viewpoint of the other person, who may be of a different generation.
  • The mentoring relationship can easily be customized to focus on the needs of the individual participants.
  • Both sides can gain self-confidence.
  • Mentoring relationships can foster better communication and collaboration in everyday interactions.

Potential Drawbacks of Reverse Mentoring

Even with all of the benefits above, reverse mentoring may come with some drawbacks. One of the biggest is that it should be implemented conscientiously to ensure no one feels that they’re being told they’re not doing their job adequately. Insulting employees who have been with the organization a long time is a real risk if not handled well, or if the younger mentor does not handle the situation appropriately.

This type of program can also be difficult to implement in some organizations, either because there is not much diversity in terms of employee skill sets or because the culture doesn’t support it.

Last but not least, new technology has privacy concerns; these issues must be addressed if that’s what the reverse mentoring relationship is focusing on.

To mitigate the risks, it may be easiest to implement a reverse mentoring program as one component of a regular mentoring program, rather than implementing it on its own. The reverse mentoring can simply be one aspect of the overall mentoring relationship, allowing it to be more give and take rather than one-sided. This allows both groups to share their knowledge and contribute to the mentoring relationship.