26 October 2023

Reverse mentoring and why you should consider it

Two Arrows with books, pencils and mobiles displaying People Firsts software.

What is reverse mentoring, and is it really the key to a stronger organisation? We’re unpacking the term and seeing how you can apply it in your teams.

So, what is reverse mentoring?

The idea behind reverse mentoring is to get senior leaders in business (CEOs, MDs, owners, directors and higher-level management) to gain a better understanding of how other people think and behave. ‘Other people’ can mean a whole range of positions and roles within (and sometimes outside) the organisation, including: 

  • Junior or less experienced employees. 
  • People from different backgrounds and/or with different lived experiences. 
  • Someone with more experience with a specific technology or digital media topic. 

Some people might be reticent to take part in a reverse mentoring scheme, as they’ll assume they have nothing to learn from someone younger than them. But there are lots of things to be learned, including: 

  • How to communicate inclusively across the workforce and with different demographics 
  • Employee and customer attitudes and what makes them think that way 
  • How they and the business is perceived by people who may also fit their customer profile 
  • Breaking out of comfort zones and challenging the status quo 
  • Learning about and understanding new technologies 

A two-way street

Inevitably, reverse mentoring usually becomes something of a two-way street. The junior person will also broaden their knowledge, experience and horizons through interacting with the senior mentee. 

Additionally, for younger or less experienced employees to know their opinions are valued within the senior ranks of their organisation is a big motivator. Being asked to share their experiences and views will strengthen their connection with the organisation. 

Reverse mentoring also builds connections and solidifies workplace relationships. Connection and knowing they’re valued and that the organisation they work for operates ethically and is socially responsible is important to Millennials and Gen Z. It also goes hand in hand with having a good equality, diversity and inclusion programme. Getting to understand and know how other groups and demographics perceive your business – and you individually – is incredibly valuable. 

Additionally, reverse mentoring programmes can act as a catalyst to break down generational stereotypes that build-up in work environments: 

  • Older workers don’t understand technology. 
  • Younger workers are lazy, lack commitment and don’t concentrate. 
  • Older workers have a conservative outlook and are set in their ways. 
  • Younger workers are consumed by social media. 

Break down misconceptions and embrace difference

When different age groups interact regularly, misconceptions get broken down. People begin to understand what motivates others, resulting in better collaboration and partnerships throughout the company. The same applies to building relationships and understanding outside the organisation, with clients, customers and suppliers. 

Confronting and dismantling stereotypes we’ve mentally constructed can only be a good thing. Echo chambers don’t generally make for good learning environments, while exposure to and listening to different viewpoints do. Many a great idea came out of people with different ideas sitting down together. 

Is it time to consider a reverse mentoring programme in your organisation? 

Emma Reid headshot

Emma Reid

Content writer at MHR

Back to previous