Reverse mentoring was one of the most interesting and eye-opening leadership innovations to come out in this decade. It is a process where experienced workers “mentor” new hires which helps both parties grow and learn from each other’s experiences and insights.

Chris Dessi, head of diversity at Deutsche Bank, said: “A lot of recruits can get stuck into an industry or company for life because it’s difficult to get that first role. Reverse mentoring takes care of that by making sure you’re not just filling up your quota.”

Neil Simpson, chief executive officer at Perpetual Guardian, has also supported reverse mentoring saying: “It doesn’t make sense to take people through the traditional route. When we’ve got really experienced people that have been in the business for years and years.”

This article discusses reverse mentoring, why it is needed, what makes an effective mentor and how to get started.

What Is Reverse Mentoring?

Reverse mentoring is a leadership program where experienced workers literally “mentor” new hires. This enables both parties to learn from each other’s insights and experiences. It proves especially useful for cross-generational learning purposes since the older generation of workers can teach young Gen Yers about time management skills, corporate structure, career advancement opportunities, work ethics. While helping them figure out complex issues they might be dealing with at their job or even outside of work.

In fact, according to a study by the non-profit research organization The Conference Board, Gen Yers are “less likely than prior generations. Believe that working hard is the only way to succeed” so reverse mentoring seems like a good solution for them.

To sum it up, reverse mentoring is an innovative program where older workers teach younger ones how to get ahead at their jobs and in life.

Why Is Reverse Mentoring Necessary?

If reverse mentoring has been around since 2006, then why do you need to know about it in 2013? It’s because this practice could be one of the most productive things happening in your company. As mentioned earlier, Gen Yers prefer having someone else show them the ropes rather than doing everything on their own (i.e. working hard) especially when it comes to learning how to manage their time effectively. And older workers, who have spent many years in the workforce devising different strategies for career advancement, are ideal mentors for Gen Yers. They know what steps should be implemented in order to get ahead at work (can borrow their best practices) and also because they can open doors for them (e.g. promotion opportunities).

What Makes an Effective Mentor?

Being a mentor is not easy; you’ll need patience, empathy, understanding of people’s needs, etc. if you really want to make a difference in someone’s life. What makes an effective reverse mentoring program successful is having the right kind of mentors:

1.) Bring a positive attitude to work

2.) Be a good listener and have a genuine desire to help your mentee

3.) Take the time to understand what’s going on in their lives so you can connect with them on a deeper level

4.) Speak from experience, not theory. Talk about your successes and failures so they know it is possible for them if they put in the effort

5.) Know how to handle success and failure; their job is not just to bring up problems but also solutions and encourage them along the way

6.) Open-minded; let yourself be curious about Gen Yers’ ways of life (e.g. technology, social media, etc.) so you can connect with them better

7.) Know which motivational tools to use with your mentee so they’ll want to learn from you.  Encouragement, praise, rewards are useful tools that most effective mentors know how to utilize properly.

How Get Started?

The main idea behind having reverse mentoring programs is to bring employees together irrespective of their age differences. This way older workers will be able to mentor Gen Yers based on what they’ve learned through years of experience while Gen Yers can do the same by sharing. Their wisdom gained over the years growing up in a society where different technologies and social media are present. So it’s not only about transferring skills but also knowing how to handle certain issues in today’s society, which is why reverse mentoring makes so much sense.


If your company doesn’t have a reverse mentoring program, you should give it some thought. It’ll benefit both the young and old employees in your team. You should consider adding reverse mentoring to your list of human resource (HR) initiatives because your business might not be attracting or retaining Gen Yers without it. An effective reverse mentoring strategy will help attract Gen Yers to your organization by giving them access to knowledge, experience, insights they need so they can further their careers. Then again, if you were thinking about implementing this program. But didn’t know where to start, you now have an idea of what would be best for you and your company.