reverse-mentoring

What is reverse mentoring?

Reverse mentoring is the opposite of traditional mentoring where junior employees are mentored by someone with more seniority or experience.  Reverse mentoring occurs when a senior employee is mentored by a younger or more junior employee. 

Understanding reverse mentoring

While the practice may seem counterintuitive, reverse mentoring has benefits for both the company and the individual.

Many companies such as General Electric, KMPG, and Deloitte run reverse mentoring programs to develop their graduate employees and support diversity initiatives.

Financial services company Pershing also saw 97% retention of its millennial workforce after providing reverse mentoring opportunities.

Reverse mentoring is also an effective way to:

  • Empower new leaders – when younger employees are given a chance to mentor, they develop important leadership skills.
  • Foster an inclusive culture – mentors from underrepresented groups are partnered with mentees from senior management to broaden their horizons and perspectives.
  • Increase knowledge sharing across the organization – this results in an organization that is more creative, open-minded, innovative, and agile.
  • Build authentic connections with co-workers – these connections close the entrenched generational gaps that exist in some companies.

Which leaders benefit from reverse mentoring the most?

Managers with the power to influence strategy, resources, and mission will benefit most from the fresh perspective of a younger mentor who is closer to the action, so to speak.

This includes people such as:

  • The CEO.
  • Senior executives.
  • VPs, and
  • Senior managers.

Provided the mentor has something valuable to share, reverse mentoring is also likely to benefit mentees from lower levels of management

Reverse mentoring examples

To conclude this article, we’ve listed some additional real-world examples of reverse mentoring in the workplace:

  • Caterpillar – heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar utilizes reverse mentoring within employee resource groups (ERGs). Caterpillar VP Tana Utley found that the company’s regular informal meetings enabled her to see the workplace differently and challenge her paradigms with more contemporary ones.
  • Heineken – Dutch brewer Heineken has been running a reverse mentoring program since April 2021. After a company survey, it was found that 86% of senior leader mentees wanted to connect more with junior employees and benefit from their talent.
  • PwC – consulting firm PwC implemented its reverse mentoring program in 2014 as part of an effort to increase diversity and inclusion. According to PwC head of people Kalee Talvitie-Brown, the company wanted “mentors to feel as though they can ask challenging questions to the partners and to be clear about their purpose.

Key takeaways:

  • Reverse mentoring occurs when a senior employee is mentored by a younger or more junior employee. While the practice may seem counterintuitive, reverse mentoring has benefits for both the company and the individual.
  • At the individual level, reverse mentoring is an effective way to build the next generation of leaders and close harmful generational gaps between co-workers. For organizations, reverse mentoring is an important part of diversity, inclusion, and millennial employee retention.
  • Examples of companies that have used reverse mentoring successfully include Caterpillar, Heineken, and the consultancy firm PwC.

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