Why “Reverse Mentoring” is so important in the modern workplace

Great project management is about a lot of things but at its core is one imperative resource, a resource we all already have – our people. It doesn’t matter how well your project is planned or what processes are in place, it will all mean next to nothing if each team member doesn’t feel valued.

How can you show your employees or colleagues how valuable they are and encourage them to work together towards the common goals required to get projects done well? One fantastic way to achieve this is through a mentoring scheme.

“Employers that are effectively linking their social missions to their employee’s daily work are differentiating themselves in the market and generating big returns. Taking the necessary steps to ensure every employee knows how they fulfil the mission, achieve the vision, and execute one or more company strategies through his or her daily job really pays off.”

Tamr Elkeles, Chief Talent Executive at Atlantic Bridge Capital

Linking the organisation’s mission to an employee’s daily work can be achieved in a number of ways. Firstly, when a newcomer joins the organisation, they should be properly and thoroughly inducted. Their role must be explained in great detail and related directly back to what the organisation does, believes and wants to achieve. Immediately that team member will get a sense of their role’s greater purpose and feel motivated to achieve the goals set for them. Secondly, it will reinforce how much they are valued – you are entrusting them with meaningful work. Thirdly, they are likely to feel more connected to their teammates (everybody is working towards something common), leading the way to better workplace relations and teamwork.

However, it can be a challenge to keep this momentum going. As time passes, and we become comfortable, even the most motivated among us can lose the spark we once held for a position and workplace. This is where mentoring becomes so important. Not any mentoring scheme though; we’re in 2020 now and it’s time to think about mentoring a little differently.

Making mentors - it’s a two-way street

Everybody has the potential to be a teacher. Think about how you can create a culture of mutual mentorship in the office, one that isn’t so top-heavy. Maybe younger members of the team could regularly present on new developments in the social media world to the team, for example. Just because someone doesn’t have decades of experience, doesn’t mean they don’t have valuable insights to offer.

Indeed, according to Entrepeneur.com, the practice of younger team members mentoring older ones has even become a trend. They call it ‘reverse mentoring’ and give a number of convincing reasons why it’s a great idea, including:

  • It’s worth it to take a risk on a rising leader. Younger team members tend to be brimming with fresh ideas and creative potential. Why not ask some of the millennials in your office to hold a team brainstorming session? Sit back and watch as your projects suddenly become a whole lot more creative!
  • It will help you squash old-fashioned hierarchical decision-making processes. Everybody wants to feel like their work is meaningful and their days in the office are purposeful. A flatter office structure can be achieved through a mentoring scheme which seeks the input of younger team members too. com recommends an experiment where you place younger-generation employees on a steering committee to see where the idea may lead. The likely result? Bright new ideas emerge, employee engagement increases, a sense of empowerment pervades the officescape, and you may well pick up a few fresh thoughts on management.
  • You’ll learn loads about tech. Let’s face it, those of us who grew up without iPhones and social networking sites will never, ever grasp the intricacies of tech, tech trends and digital innovation in the way our younger co-workers do. Here’s an exercise to try out: Ask a millennial colleague to do a short presentation on a technology or tech trend and then, as a group, brainstorm 50 ways the organisation could use it. The ideas could be invaluable.

Long-standing employees need attention too

It’s easy to focus your efforts on the members of the team who need to develop their skills and forget about the ones (often long-standing employees) who know what they are doing and are continually performing well. Everybody thrives with a bit of encouragement!

In addition to finding new ways for established colleagues to be mentored and mentor others, team leaders could set themselves a goal of dropping an email to one team member weekly to let them know how brilliantly they are doing. Be sure to use specific examples – “I really appreciated the points you made during the meeting, they were very useful in breaking the ice and generating meaningful discussion about the task at hand”, for instance.

The best team members are ones who feel valued, that goes for those who have been with the organisation for two days or 20 years.

Consider external mentoring too

Creating opportunities for your team through regular training and development is vital. Your team simply can’t flourish without it. Getting external trainers in on a semi-regular basis, or sending high-performing employees on workshops and training programmes, will show the team just how much you value them – so much so you’re willing (rightly so) to invest in them.

One way to combine external training with an in-house mentoring programme is to rotate which team members are trained externally (think about who would benefit most from this) and then ask them to present back what they learned to colleagues.

Your people are your most valuable assets. If you want your organisation to thrive, so must they.


Lee Tobin, Marketing Expert

Lee is a professional storyteller. She uses a storybook approach to emotively communicate your organisation’s core messages to your target audience. She especially loves social media and believes that comms should always be bold.