How Reverse Mentoring Can Help Your Company

A younger employee involved in a reverse mentorship relationship with a much more senior coworker.

The term “mentorship” typically relates to a senior-level employee mentoring a junior- or mid-level employee. However, there are different types of mentoring relationships, including peer-to-peer and reverse mentoring.

Some business owners have created formal programs to ensure that all their employees have access to a mentor. If you don’t have a mentorship program, or want to expand it, consider letting people sign up for peer-to-peer, reverse, and traditional mentorship relationships.

While you may be familiar with traditional mentorships, you may not know as much about reverse mentoring relationships. We’ve pulled together the benefits of these relationships and a step-by-step guide to creating an effective program.

What is Reverse Mentoring?

In these professional relationships, junior- and mid-level employees mentor senior-level employees. The best mentoring relationships will be mutually beneficial; so, ideally, both people will strengthen their skillset, deepen their understanding, and gain support.

What are the Benefits?

It isn’t just beneficial for the mentor and mentee. An effective reverse mentorship program will strengthen your company culture, helping you recruit and retain top talent. The top benefits include:

1. Increased Employee Morale and Engagement

Employees who have strong working relationships are likely to be more productive, collaborative, motivated, and engaged. If your program has high participation rates, you’re likely to see increased employee morale and engagement, which can boost your bottom line.

Senior-level employees probably have a strong professional network inside and outside your organization, but junior- and mid-level employees may not. More junior employees typically have fewer interactions with senior-level employees. These problems can help them feel valued and heard, which is likely to decrease turnover.

2. Improved Diversity in Leadership Over Time

While there is greater gender and racial diversity for lower-level roles, research shows that there is a significant decrease for more senior roles. If you retain and promote lower-level employees, you’re likely to see increased diversity in leadership roles. (As an added benefit, research shows that companies with diverse leadership teams are more profitable than those with less diverse executive teams.)

Many candidates want to work for a company with a strong diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) program and a diverse team in general, so your efforts can help attract top candidates. You may want to mention your reverse mentoring program on your job postings and your site’s “career” page and in interviews to show younger candidates that their ideas, skills, and feedback are valued.

3. Stronger Skillsets

This type of mentorship is often associated with senior leaders learning digital technology skills. While that may be true in many cases, there are so many other skills and insights they can learn from younger employees, such as how to attract and retain Millennial and Gen Z workers, customers, or clients.

Meanwhile, younger workers may gain leadership, relationship-building, and communication skills. They’ll also likely gain institutional knowledge about the company and learn how to navigate office politics.

How to Set Up a Reverse Mentoring Program

Now that you know the benefits, you are probably excited about implementing a program at your company. Take these steps to set up an effective program:

1. Design Your Program

The first step is to determine the logistics of your program. You may want to consider the following as you get started:

  • What is the goal of your program?
  • How will you measure whether your program is successful?
  • Will you pair people from the same or different departments?
  • Is there a minimum number of times you’d like people to meet per year?
  • Will all employees be matched, or will participation be optional?

2. Advertise Your Program

Whether participation is optional or mandatory, your next step is to get people excited about the program. You could share the goal and guidelines at your next town hall meeting or in a dedicated company-wide email.

If participation is optional, encourage senior employees to join and help champion the program so younger employees will be eager to participate. (You may want to avoid the terms mentor and mentee because ideally, both people will learn new skills.)

3. Match Participants

Next, you need to pair participants. You could send a survey to find out people’s long- and short-term goals, interests, and the skills and insights they hope to learn and teach. Use the responses to match people.

4. Provide Conversation Topics

Help participants get the conversation started by providing a “reverse mentoring toolkit” with conversation prompts and topic ideas like digital media, the future of work, attracting and retaining Millennial and Gen Z workers and customers, navigating office politics, relationship-building, company history, leadership development, career advancement, and remote work.

5. Ask for Participant Feedback

Ask participants for feedback that you can use to strengthen the program. You could also ask about the skills they’ve learned and taught so you can add new conversation prompts and topics to the toolkit.

Learn More HR Initiatives and Best Practices

Your reverse mentoring program is likely to help participants learn new skills and develop strong working relationships. The program should strengthen your company culture, boost employee morale, increase diversity in leadership roles, and help you attract and retain younger workers, clients, and customers. Continue to strengthen your team and company performance by implementing additional expert HR advice from Monster.