How Reverse Mentoring Can Be Beneficial to Your Company

by Marty McCarthy, CPA, CCIFP, McCarthy & Company, PC | October 31, 2022

Reverse mentoring, where a junior employee mentors a senior employee, is a strategic method that helps employees feel more engaged with their organization and its values. It is a powerful tool for bridging the generational gap and building solid professional bonds within an organization. It can also help break down stereotypes in the workplace and increase diversity, equity and inclusion within the firm. For example, it can help educate senior leaders about racial, gender and discrimination issues, which can improve the upward mobility of women and minorities in the workplace.

Challenges and Opportunities

In theory, reverse mentoring is an excellent way for an executive to gain knowledge and skills from someone less experienced. However, there are challenges that both the mentor and mentee must overcome to make the arrangement successful. The first challenge is that the participants must share a high level of respect for one another. Another challenge is that the more-senior employees must be willing to accept feedback from their junior counterpart.

Reverse mentoring programs can also fail if the senior executive does not prioritize the relationship. Ideally, a junior staff person should lead the program, select new cohorts and train the new mentors. This training will prepare mentors for successful experiences and help them share challenges.

Reverse mentoring is an excellent alternative to conventional mentoring. However, it can be a lengthy process, may require some effort to implement, and might not be suitable for everyone. For instance, a newer team member may not feel confident sharing their opinions with an experienced colleague. Also, more-established colleagues might not want to spend time participating in such a way with newcomers.

In addition to the apparent benefit of guiding a new employee, reverse mentoring provides both the mentor and mentee with an opportunity to share their expertise. For example, experienced professionals can discuss what they have learned from being in the trenches. At the same time, novice team members can share new approaches to addressing situations with artificial intelligence and other innovative technology.    

Another benefit of reverse mentoring is that it builds stronger relationships within the workplace. It is impossible to fully understand employees' perspectives and experiences without listening to them. Reverse mentoring helps more-seasoned employees refine their leadership skills by learning from newer employees.

Empowering Employees

Reverse mentoring is a great way to develop future leaders within a firm. By pairing more senior employees with junior ones, firms can accelerate learning and boost engagement. For example, Turning the Gender Diversity Dial, a 2017 research study by Moving Ahead in collaboration with and sponsored by Deloitte, found that 87 percent of mentors and mentees said their relationship had increased their confidence and empowered them. Furthermore, 82 percent of participants believed mentoring relationships help foster meaningful connections between mentors and mentees across departments and the organization, and 84 percent reported that mentoring relationships provide two-way inspiration for mentors and mentees. The concept also has the added benefit of giving senior leaders new perspectives on emerging trends. 

A reverse mentoring program allows companies to transfer knowledge and technical skills to junior employees and familiarize their senior employees with a different mindset. Those earlier in their career can to more likely to be receptive to a new idea or offer suggestions to make processes more efficient. This type of mentoring is helpful in learning about the latest tools and applications.

Reverse mentoring can foster lifelong learning. In today's fast-paced world, employees of all levels must keep their skills and knowledge up to date.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and doesn’t constitute professional advice.

Martin C. McCarthy

Martin C. McCarthy

Martin C. McCarthy, CPA, CCIFP, is a partner at Marcum.

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