Why reverse mentoring is a win-win opportunity

By Jan Murray
Everyone is a winner with reverse mentoring

Last updated

Using reverse mentoring to keep up with the latest trends

Over the last few years I have become smart enough to recognise that my teenage children are my go-to sources when it comes to finding out the latest trends in communicating and connecting via social media. They are way ahead in adopting the latest tools and knowing how to use them. This is a great example of how, in my own small way, I am participating in a new trend called Reverse Mentoring.

Even as many of my generation excel in their business and professional careers, they can often still hit a wall when it comes to keeping up with changes in technology and using social media. Reverse mentoring can often be the answer, and getting the process right is the key to properly benefiting from the process.

What is Reverse Mentoring?

Reverse mentoring is an innovative approach where younger employees mentor their more experienced and senior colleagues. This concept contrasts with traditional mentoring by flipping the roles of mentors and mentees to adapt to rapidly changing business environments and bridge generational gaps within organisations.

Reverse Mentoring Compared to Traditional Mentoring

  • Traditional Mentoring: In a conventional mentorship program, seasoned professionals guide less-experienced employees on career development, leadership skills, or industry knowledge. The focus is primarily on transferring wisdom from older generations to younger ones.
  • Reverse Mentoring: With reverse mentoring, the tables are turned as younger employees take on the role of mentors for their senior counterparts. These programs aim at sharing digital skills or new technologies knowledge while learning valuable leadership skills themselves. By doing so, they help foster intergenerational collaboration within companies.

With the ever-changing nature of technology and workplace dynamics, organisations must stay ahead of trends to remain competitive, making reverse mentoring programs an effective tool for cultivating a culture of innovation. One way organisations can achieve this is through implementing reverse mentoring programs that promote continuous learning across all levels of experience.

A successful reverse mentoring initiative not only benefits both parties involved but also contributes significantly towards creating a culture of innovation within an organisation. For instance, Millennials gain recognition for their expertise in areas such as social media or data analytics while simultaneously honing their own leadership abilities under guidance from experienced professionals who possess invaluable insights into navigating complex corporate landscapes. Forbes highlights the benefits of reverse mentoring, emphasising its potential to drive intergenerational collaboration and learning.

Reverse mentoring can be a valuable resource for organisations to bridge generational divides in the workplace, and it is essential to comprehend its subtleties. With that said, let us now look at how reverse mentoring originated and what other companies are doing with this concept.

Revolutionise your workplace by implementing reverse mentoring programs. Let younger employees share digital skills and bridge generational gaps with senior colleagues.

The Origins of Reverse Mentoring

Reverse mentoring has its roots in the late 1990s when Jack Welch, then CEO of General Electric (GE), recognised the potential benefits of younger employees sharing their knowledge with senior executives. Welch believed that fostering intergenerational collaboration would lead to a more agile and innovative organisation. He initiated a program where GE's top leaders were paired with junior employees who taught them about emerging technologies and digital trends.

Since Jack Welch's pioneering efforts at GE, many other major companies have adopted reverse mentoring programs as part of their talent development strategies. Some notable examples include:

  • PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC): The global professional services firm launched a reverse mentoring initiative focused on promoting diversity and inclusion across different regions and departments within the company. This program led to increased engagement among participants.
  • BNY Mellon's Pershing: In this financial services company, young mentors helped senior executives understand social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter, enabling them to connect better with clients online.
  • Cisco Systems: Cisco implemented a reverse mentoring program called "Executive Exchange" that allowed high-potential millennials to mentor C-suite executives on topics such as cybersecurity threats or cloud computing solutions.
  • CBIZ Accounting: The accounting firm established a reverse mentoring program to bridge the generational gap between employees and improve communication, collaboration, and innovation within the organisation.

Using universities for reverse mentors

Citibank was one of the first companies to reach out to a university for reverse mentors. It launched a program to pair some of their senior executives with graduates and undergraduates from University of Miami School of Business Administration. They worked on specific projects that took a fresh look at mobile payments, communicating with millennial generation customers, social media, the digital retail business and creating compelling job pitches for young talent.

Citibank found that using students as mentors brings in a fresher perspective and a different relationship than when using someone from a more junior level within the organisation, who a senior executive might manage. The adoption of reverse mentoring by these major companies demonstrates its growing relevance in today's rapidly changing business environment. By embracing this innovative approach to talent development, organisations can stay competitive and foster intergenerational learning that benefits both mentors and mentees.

Benefits of Reverse Mentoring

Reverse mentoring has come a long way since Jack Welch's pioneering efforts at General Electric, and its popularity continues to grow as companies recognise the many benefits of this type of program. Now let's delve into the gains that both parties can reap from reverse mentoring, after considering its beginnings.

Revolutionise your talent development strategy with reverse mentoring - a game-changing approach to intergenerational collaboration and innovation.

Advantages for both mentor and mentee

Reverse mentoring can help senior leaders learn from younger team members, build trust, and gain fresh perspectives. At the same time, junior colleagues can develop leadership skills, share their knowledge, and retain millennial talent. Reverse mentoring can also help bridge the gap between older and younger employees, creating a more cohesive and productive multi-generational workforce that better understands the needs of younger consumers.

Both mentors and mentees benefit from participating in a reverse mentoring program. It fosters intergenerational collaboration by allowing younger employees to share digital skills or new technology knowledge while learning valuable leadership skills themselves. Additionally, these programs increase retention rates among Millennials through transparency and recognition from management.

  • Mentors: Younger employees gain opportunities to develop their communication, leadership, and coaching abilities. They also get the chance to build relationships with senior colleagues who can provide guidance on career advancement.
  • Mentees: Senior professionals acquire insights into emerging trends, tools, and strategies that help them stay competitive in today's fast-paced business environment. They also learn about the unique perspectives of younger generations which can enhance decision-making processes.

Intergenerational collaboration through shared learning experiences

In a successful reverse mentoring program, participants engage in open dialogues where they exchange ideas freely without fear of judgment or criticism. This process encourages mutual respect between different age groups within an organisation leading to improved teamwork and productivity overall performance levels. For example, older workers may become more adept at using social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter after receiving training from tech-savvy millennial mentors while young professionals could gain insights into effective negotiation tactics based on decades’ worth of experience possessed by seasoned executives.

Reverse mentoring has been demonstrated to be of great help in unifying the contrast between conventional business strategies and the perpetually shifting digital environment. For instance, a Harvard Business Review article highlighted how such programs can help organisations stay ahead of industry changes by fostering a culture of continuous learning and innovation among employees of all ages and levels of expertise.

In addition to these benefits, reverse mentoring can also contribute positively to a company's diversity and inclusion efforts, creating opportunities for cross-generational collaboration and understanding of different cultures and backgrounds. By encouraging open communication between various age groups, businesses not only improve employee engagement and satisfaction but also create more inclusive work environments where everyone feels valued and respected for their unique contributions and ideas.

Reverse mentoring offers numerous benefits for both mentor and mentee, making it an invaluable tool to promote intergenerational collaboration in the workplace. By implementing a successful reverse mentoring program, organisations can foster greater understanding between generations and create unique learning opportunities for all involved.

Key Takeaway:

Reverse mentoring is a beneficial program that fosters intergenerational collaboration and enhances leadership skills. It allows younger employees to share their digital knowledge while learning from senior colleagues, who in turn gain insights into emerging trends and tools. This program contributes positively to a company's diversity efforts by creating opportunities for cross-generational collaboration and understanding of different cultures and backgrounds.

Reverse mentoring has been successfully implemented in a variety of professional settings but can also be utilised in other areas.

Reverse Mentoring in Other Areas of Life

Beyond professional contexts, applying the principles of reverse mentoring to personal development and lifelong learning can yield significant benefits. Individuals can gain insights from different age groups, experiences, and backgrounds leading to greater empathy and understanding across generations, ultimately contributing to a richer and more inclusive society.

Applying Reverse Mentoring to Personal Development

Incorporating reverse mentoring into one's personal life can help individuals grow by challenging their perspectives and expanding their knowledge base. For example, older adults might learn about new technologies or social media trends from younger counterparts while sharing valuable life lessons or career advice in return. This exchange fosters mutual respect between both parties as they recognise each other's unique strengths.

Potential Benefits Outside the Professional Context

  • Cross-generational relationships: Reverse mentoring helps bridge generational gaps by encouraging open dialogue between people with diverse experiences. This leads to stronger connections within communities and families.
  • Lifelong learning: Engaging in ongoing mentorship allows individuals to stay curious about new ideas or concepts that may not be part of their everyday lives. It promotes continuous growth through exposure to fresh perspectives on various topics such as technology advancements or cultural shifts.
  • Social impact: By fostering collaboration among different age groups, reverse mentoring has the potential for creating positive change at a societal level. Younger mentors could share insights on pressing issues like climate change or social justice with older mentees who hold influential positions within organisations or governments - sparking meaningful action toward addressing these challenges.

Key Takeaway:

Reverse mentoring can be applied beyond professional contexts to personal development and lifelong learning, resulting in greater empathy and understanding across generations. Incorporating reverse mentoring into one's personal life challenges perspectives, expands knowledge base, fosters mutual respect between both parties, bridges generational gaps through open dialogue leading to stronger connections within communities and families. Reverse mentoring has the potential for creating positive change at a societal level by fostering collaboration among different age groups towards addressing pressing issues like climate change or social justice.

Reverse Mentoring FAQs

What are the benefits of reverse mentoring?

Reverse mentoring offers numerous benefits, including increased millennial employee retention, enhanced transparency between management levels, improved digital skill understanding, and promotion of organisational diversity. It also fosters a culture of lifelong learning and personal development for both mentors and mentees.

How can organisations best facilitate a successful reverse mentoring program?

To ensure success in implementing a reverse mentoring program, organisations should set clear objectives, establish effective mentorship pairings based on skills and interests, provide training to participants on their roles as mentors or mentees, measure progress through key performance indicators (KPIs), and regularly review the program's effectiveness.

What challenges might arise when implementing a reverse mentoring program?

Potential challenges include resistance to change from senior employees or managers who may feel threatened by younger colleagues' expertise; bridging generational differences in communication styles; building trust between mentors and mentees; ensuring ongoing commitment from all parties involved; addressing potential power dynamics within the relationship.

How does reverse mentoring differ from traditional mentorship programs?

In contrast to traditional mentorship where an experienced professional guides someone less experienced in their career development journey, reverse mentoring involves younger professionals sharing their knowledge with more seasoned colleagues. This exchange typically focuses on areas such as technology adoption or cultural trends that older generations may not be familiar with.

What skills and knowledge should be exchanged in a reverse mentor relationship?

The specific topics covered will depend on individual needs and interests, but common areas of focus include digital skills, social media usage, understanding generational differences in the workplace, promoting diversity and inclusion initiatives, fostering innovation and creativity, and navigating remote work environments or flexible working arrangements.


Reverse mentoring is a powerful tool that can help organisations improve communication, promote diversity and inclusion, and bridge the gap between generations. By pairing younger employees with more experienced mentors in a structured program, businesses can tap into the knowledge and skills of their millennial workforce while also helping them develop leadership abilities.

If you're interested in implementing reverse mentoring at your organisation, be sure to set clear objectives for your program, establish effective mentorship pairings, and measure success through key performance indicators. Remember to address any potential challenges such as resistance to change or generational differences by building trust between mentors and mentees.

Find out more

At PLD we work with both universities and employers to help develop mentoring programs using our mentor matching platform and mentoring tools and resources. If you would like to find out more call us on 01625 251 055 to talk to us about how we have helped other universities and employers to develop their mentoring programs or request a mentoring demonstration.

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