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Business focus: Reverse mentoring

Traditional mentoring sees experience valued over everything else, leading to more mature employees often taking the younger work force under their wing to share their knowledge and skills.

However, the modern work place has changed dramatically over the last couple of decades. Technology has advanced at an unprecedented speed, equality and inclusivity has improved and even modern work wellbeing has changed. Taking all this into account, could the younger generation have just as much to teach the older generations?

What is reverse mentoring?

Reverse mentoring flips the traditional hierarchy of mentoring on its head. Junior employees that have skills to share become the mentors for more senior employees. As with most mentoring schemes, the learning process is often reciprocal but it’s a newer concept to for the junior employee to lead the way.

John Watkins, Employability Director for The University of Law said ‘Reverse mentoring allows senior experienced figures to better appreciate the perspective of those that they manage and lead. In practice I have seen revisions to definitions of such words as ‘snowflake’ and ‘resilience’ as the context becomes better understood. More importantly this translates into a stronger capability to motivate with improved performance and satisfaction for both individuals and organisations.’

Which businesses are leading the change?

Proctor & Gamble

The household name of consumer goods discussed the potential of a mentoring scheme with women within their business, but it was fed back that they did not feel the traditional mentoring scheme would be of use to them. They fed back that higher management struggled to understand their work needs and once a reverse mentoring scheme was put into place, their companies issues with female staff retention diminished.


With the BBC losing touch with the under 30s and online streaming services start to dominate the market, it’s not surprise that the BBC has introduced a reverse mentoring scheme. Managers in its education and radio departments were paired up with an employee under 30 to assist in helping them to understand how to appeal to a younger audience.


The professional financial services company launched their scheme in early 2018. A pilot scheme was driven out of their Afro-Caribbean employee network and once its positive impact became clear they made the necessary alterations for it become successful as a larger scheme.

KPMG’s I&D senior lead, Edleen John, told Accountancy Age: “We recognised that one of the key benefits was that it actually put junior colleagues in contact with quite senior people which they may not have worked with previously – this additional exposure has proven beneficial not just to their day to day jobs, but also with regards to specific skills needed on individual projects. So it was a way of also creating a form of traditional mentors or sponsors.”

Benefits of reverse mentoring

  • Increased confidence in dealing with senior stakeholders – this experience can have a hugely positive impact on younger employees
  • Learning future trends – younger people are often tapped into trends that older generations aren’t aware of until the popularity has peaked, which could be too late for a business to make the most of a situation
  • Saving money on external development – why rely on external training when skills are available within your workforce already?
  • Increased millennial retention – these schemes reinforce just how highly your business regards their younger employees, leading them to feel more supported and appreciated and less likely to leave the company.

With so many positive benefits to reverse mentoring, expect to see more big businesses take up this initiative over the next few years.

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