10 reverse mentoring tips you should know

Reverse mentoring can play an important role as part of your Inclusion & Diversity strategy.

Addison Barnett, our Head of Inclusion & Diversity Services (South), has created 10 top tips for reverse mentoring.

Continue reading to find out more about how to make reverse mentoring work for your organisation.

Understanding the challenges of reverse mentoring

We often see discussions of whether there are any disadvantages of reverse mentoring? Our answer is, not so much disadvantages, but risks and challenges, which are:

  • Your senior staff may be resistant to taking part
  • Your organisation may not be ready for the changes that will arise from the programme
  • As with all inclusion programmes, if the reverse mentoring doesn’t sit within a wider inclusion and organisational change plan there is a risk it becomes siloed or feels tokenistic.

The key to success for a reverse mentoring scheme, or indeed any inclusion and diversity activity, is to ensure it sits within a long-term inclusion and diversity strategy or action plan.

Link it to these wider aims, set a baseline and ongoing measurement points to capture the impact, and ensure it sits within larger programmes of organisation change such as training, internal messaging, policy and procedure reviews, etc.

10 reverse mentoring tips you should know

If you’re thinking about launching a reverse mentoring programme, it can be a little daunting. To get you started, here are 10 reverse mentoring tips:

1. Ensure there is a safe space with a mutual level of respect and trust

The mentoring relationship needs a safe, confidential space for it to flourish. We recommend training mentors and mentees before the meetings start to ensure mentees and mentors understand their roles and how to make the programme a success.

2. Have clear expectations

Having clear expectations for both sides of the mentor pair can be a great way to get the most out of a reverse mentoring programme. It means that everyone understands what they’re trying to accomplish, what they can gain from it, and how it will benefit them.

3. Create plans

Encourage mentor pairs to create plans and set goals for their meetings. It can be helpful to provide frameworks, reverse mentoring topic ideas and guides for the meetings to support the initial conversations.

4. Set goals

Setting goals gives mentor pairs a purpose for their roles and helps them understand the larger reasoning behind the pairing. It can help both individuals use each other to achieve their goals and motivate one another.

5. Think carefully about matches

Matching your mentors and mentees is more an art than a science. However, you can make the matching easier by asking participants what they can bring to the programme and what they’d like to get out of it.

Although, people can surprise us: some of the most successful matches I’ve seen have been randomly assigned!

6. Listen carefully

Listening is one of the most important skills for reverse mentoring, for the programme planner, mentors, and employees at all levels. Listening allows you to understand feedback, goals and development, what can be done better, and how your organisation can benefit from understanding different points of view.

7. Be open to and accept feedback

When implementing reverse mentoring, you must be open to feedback and take it seriously. Feedback can be complicated and include situations in which people are not enjoying or gaining anything from reverse mentoring or are not gelling well with their match. You should be prepared to analyse feedback and act on it when necessary.

8. Don’t use reverse mentoring as a replacement for training

Reverse mentoring has many benefits, but it should not be used in place of training, especially in the inclusion and diversity field. Employees should not be expected to provide free training to senior leaders. While reverse mentoring can identify knowledge gaps, it should also influence and inspire change through training and other means.

9. Have support on hand

While mentoring relationships rarely go wrong, it is always worth being prepared just in case. It may be a match just isn’t quite clicking, or the participants need a bit more support to make it work.

Topics may come up during the programme that staff may need additional support with, so having your EAP or internal support mechanisms to hand is a good idea.

10. Measure your impact

While you’re planning your reverse mentoring programme, think about how you will measure its impact.

What impact do you want the programme to have? How could you measure that?

It’s best to use a range of measures to increase the confidence of your findings, e.g., running surveys and focus groups after the programme, reviewing your HR data, are leadership objectives being met?

How Inclusive Employers can help with reverse mentoring

At Inclusive Employers, we have worked with many of our members to run reverse mentoring programmes.

We can support all the way through, from planning, comms and matching through to training sessions for mentors and mentees. We can help with guides for how to get the best from the mentoring programme for participants, knowledge sessions and support to evaluate impact.

If you’re a member, speak to your account manager and explore our reverse mentoring guide. If you’re not yet a member and want to learn more about reverse mentorship or hear some reverse mentoring examples, contact us here today.