Why and how to get involved in reverse mentoring

Wednesday 13 April 2022

It’s common practice in the business world for younger employees to learn from a more experienced mentor, but it’s also possible for learning to work in the opposite direction.

2:00 min
WHAT IS REVERSE MENTORING?

Reverse mentoring gets its name from the way it overturns the traditional ‘younger person learning from an older person’ relationship. In business, it has been used as a way of helping senior executives to stay in touch with technological change and shape how younger generations think. It was popularised by Jack Welch, the leader of the engineering company, GE, who used this approach in the 1990s to teach senior executives about the Internet. The Harvard Business Review also notes the success that Estée Lauder and BNY Mellon’s Pershing have had with the technique in terms of fostering company culture and retaining young talent.

WHY TRY REVERSE MENTORING?

At a personal level, both parties in a reverse mentoring relationship will benefit. The young mentor gets to “learn the value of knowledge sharing and the art of presenting their rationale for what they do”. The older mentee finds that “a new and fresh perspective from their mentor” can show them areas they’ve been missing or processes that aren’t working. That’s according to a Forbes article written by Blair Brady, a CEO whose method of being reverse mentored is to take employees to a monthly one-to-one lunch.

WAYS OF ORGANISING REVERSE MENTORING

Brady also suggests ways of carrying out reverse mentoring in a group format, such as asking a team of younger staff to research a specific trend and report back to senior executives in a ‘lunch-and-learn’ format. A different and more structured approach, put forward by mentoring coach Fatih Elibol, proposes basing a formal programme around a specific business challenge and setting metrics that are relevant to that challenge. His ten-step series of recommendations also advises having an executive sponsor of the programme and making sure a certain number of mentees are signed up before asking potential mentors to come forward.