What is reverse mentoring? Everything you need to know

Inclusive Employers has developed a reverse mentoring programme to benefit both leaders and emerging talent, and help you build an inclusive culture within your organisation.

Continue reading to learn more about reverse mentoring, its benefits, and our programme.

What is reverse mentoring?

Reverse mentoring provides your staff with the opportunity to have powerful inclusion conversations across pay grades. Unlike standard mentoring programmes, in a reverse mentoring programme senior leaders are the mentees and non-leadership staff are the mentors.

The non-leadership staff are drawn from groups who are under-represented in leadership in your organisation: Black colleagues, women, disabled colleagues, etc. If you’re looking to empower leadership to role model inclusion, develop under-represented talent, and create an inclusive culture, reverse mentoring can help.

Reverse mentoring programmes support mentees and mentors to grow, develop and exchange knowledge and expertise. These programmes build future leaders and empower your leadership teams to become champions of inclusion.

Inclusive Employers reverse mentoring programmes supports you through every step of the way: recruiting and matching your cohort; delivering expert training and ongoing support for your mentors and mentees; and supporting you to evaluate the programme.  

How did reverse mentoring begin?

The former CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch, is credited with inventing the concept of reverse mentoring.

He recognised that new, younger staff knew much more about emerging technology, so he paired them with senior staff to ‘mentor’ their senior colleagues.

Reverse (sometimes referred to as reciprocal) mentoring then entered the wider workplace with an inclusion lens.

We often see reverse mentoring taking place with a race focus, but I have seen it work its magic between all different sorts of pairings. The key is that the power dynamic of senior to junior is flipped. In the reverse mentoring programme, the senior staff are the mentees – they are there to learn, not to advise.

For instance, if an organisation’s executive team is mostly white men who are middle class, the mentors might be Black or from a working class background, a different generation or sexuality or gender. The key is that the mentor, the more junior person, takes the lead.

How does reverse mentoring work?

Reverse mentoring takes place over a finite time period, usually six months. During this six-month period, the mentors and mentee pairs meet regularly to have their mentoring sessions.

What is covered in these sessions can vary, but what we suggest at Inclusive Employers is that the first session is spent getting to know one another and agreeing a goal for the sessions. The mentor then uses this to shape the sessions.

During the ‘getting to know you’ phase it’s common for the reverse mentor to explain to the mentee how they experience the world, and the structural and individual barriers they face as someone from a minoritised group.

This vulnerability is incredibly powerful, but it must take place in a confidential and safe environment and must never be obligatory for the mentor to share.

Over time the mentor and mentee sessions become reciprocal, a learning collaboration between mentor and mentee. At the end of a good reverse mentoring relationship both parties should feel that they’ve learnt and grown as a result.

The benefits of reverse mentoring

The relationship between mentor and mentee is so often transformative. Something special happens when two people take time to have genuine, human conversations.

Reverse mentoring has both individual and organisational benefits. Individuals feel more confident, build cross-organisational relationships, challenge their own perspective of the world and develop inclusive behaviours.

For the organisation reverse mentoring builds a cohort of engaged senior champions and role models, and emerging diverse talent.

Our reverse mentoring programme will benefit any workplace that wants to make inclusion an everyday reality. We have designed it to enable you to recruit, train and empower mentors and mentees who will advocate for inclusion across your organisation. 

Our programme is designed to support the mentors to actively lead the mentoring sessions, and for senior colleagues to adopt a learning mindset to get the best out of the opportunity. Our optional knowledge sessions give the whole cohort a chance to upskill together around key inclusion topics.

Inclusive Employers reverse mentoring programme

Our reverse mentoring programme will be planned to fit your intended outcomes. We will work with you to design a programme that will suit your organisation.

An example of the structure of a reverse mentoring programme, delivered by our expert inclusion consultants is shared below:

  • Consultancy support, enabling you to define the role and advertise, recruit and match your mentors and mentees; 
  • Two active and engaging induction sessions, one for mentors and one for mentees, to establish expectations for the programme and empower mentors and mentees to make the most of the opportunity
  • A programme workbook with personal reflection exercises, a framework for the meetings, information about the programme and useful contact pointst
  • Knowledge sessions covering topics such as privilege, allyship and being a sponsor, courageous conversations and microaggressions
  • A programme evaluation to support you to capture the impact of the programme

What is our approach?

A fun, engaging and thoughtful approach underpins all Inclusive Employer’s training. We focus on behaviour change and our training and support is packed with tips, techniques and practical take-aways. Our focus is on developing a programme that is hard-wired to your organisation’s purpose, values and frameworks.

We have worked with many organisations of all sizes and sectors to run Inclusion Allies programmes. A 2021 survey of one of our reverse mentoring cohorts found:

  • 100% of reverse mentees agreed the programme had made them more inclusive
  • 100% of mentors agreed the programme had given them more confidence
  • 80% would continue their mentor/mentee relationship after the programme

To discuss how we can work together to deliver a reverse mentoring programme within your organisation contact us via our quick enquiry form. We’re looking forward to working with you.