What is reverse mentoring, and how can it help?

  • 29 Sep 2023

In this article series, we explore the value of mentoring for BC and resilience professionals, its role in the modern workplace, and new methods and practices. In this final entry, we will explore reverse mentoring, what it is, and how it can help organizations. 

What is reverse mentoring?

As discussed in the first article in this series, mentoring is “a professional development relationship where an experienced individual provides guidance, support, and feedback to someone who is seeking to improve their knowledge, skills, or career prospects.”[1]  Reverse mentoring, as is perhaps evident from the name, is a process where the mentee in this traditional mentoring relationship provides expertise in a specific area to the mentor.[2] A classic example of this would be a younger professional providing some technological expertise to a more senior colleague., for example.

The top-down approach to mentoring, as well as with other practices within organizations (such as crisis management), is common and well-known, but the advantages of combining this with a bottom-up approach have powerful potential. 

In BC and resilience, for example, we have seen how critical it is for top management to engage and support BC and resilience programmes, but we now also recognise the significance of the input from the workforce who are operationalising the programme – those who are on the ground. By including a bottom-up approach, personnel can feedback the challenges faced with the implementation of the programme to those who are creating it. 
Translating this to reverse mentoring, it provides an opportunity for those in more junior roles to flag operational concerns to those with perhaps more responsibility and influence to make the changes happen.

How can reverse mentoring support you?

There are a number of ways that reverse mentoring can help organizations, particularly as organizations find themselves in a period of digital transformation. Technologies and how we interact with them in the workplace have changed considerably, with the pace of this change only increasing as the COVID-19 pandemic enforced remote/hybrid working periods for many.

Recently, we have seen a raft of changes introduced by the developments in generative artificial intelligence (AI), which has the potential to change the way organizations operate. Members of the workforce who engage with this technology on a day-to-day basis can use this previously untapped knowledge to guide senior leadership on the products and services that might be useful to realise their resilience goals and provide guidance on features and usability. 

From a different perspective, reverse mentors can also highlight to mentees the relationship between these new technologies and the rise in cybersecurity threats. For example, sharing practical knowledge about how ChatGPT is currently being used within organizations, both through official and unofficial channels, could result in the mentee assisting the mentor in developing acceptable use policies in the workplace. This would go some distance to mitigating the cybersecurity threat posed by AI before it becomes a greater concern later down the line. 

While this may be one benefit of a reverse mentoring programme, there are many more advantages that should be considered. One of the most significant of these is the improvement of diversity and inclusion strategies within the organization. 

Indeed, a platform which supports reverse mentoring, such as the BCI’s mentoring programme, can help facilitate a more diverse, fair, and inclusive industry while helping mentees acquire the abilities and knowledge necessary for success in a multicultural and multi-identity environment.

In a reverse mentoring programme, this can be achieved by having a mentor who is part of an inclusion group, who can then help mentees understand the topics relevant to the inclusion group and how to support this through their position of experience or leadership within an organization. Some of the ways that this can function have been included below:

  • Unconscious bias: Mentors with experience in unconscious bias can help mentees understand how unconscious biases can impact decision-making and interpersonal relationships. They can share strategies for identifying and addressing unconscious biases to promote a more inclusive workplace.
  • Inclusive leadership: Mentors with expertise in inclusive leadership can help mentees develop leadership skills that promote diversity and inclusion. They can share strategies for creating a culture of inclusion, managing diversity, and promoting equity.
  • Cultural competency: Mentors can share insights on different cultural values, norms, and communication styles, and help mentees understand how to navigate cultural differences in the workplace.
  • Intersectionality: Mentors who share many characteristics or have expertise in this topic can help mentees understand the complexity of identity and how different forms of discrimination intersect. They can share insights on how to address the unique challenges faced by individuals who belong to multiple marginalized groups and promote a more inclusive workplace for everyone.

This concludes our article series on the value of mentoring, and we hope you have found the series beneficial. Please stay tuned for more information on the BCI mentoring programme, coming soon. 


[1] https://www.thebci.org/news/what-is-mentoring.html
[2] https://www.pushfar.com/article/reverse-mentoring-what-is-reverse-mentoring-how-does-it-work-and-what-are-the-benefits/#:~:text=Reverse%20mentoring%20is%20defined%20as,older%20or%20typically%20more%20experienced

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