Overview of Reverse-Mentoring

Overview of Reverse-Mentoring


A reminder of the word "mentor": in Homer's Odyssey, Mentor was entrusted by Odysseus with the education of his son Telemachus during his absence in the Trojan War…

Mentoring is an interpersonal relationship of support, exchange and learning, in which an experienced person invests his or her acquired wisdom and expertise to foster the development of another person who has skills to acquire and professional goals to achieve.

"Maturity begets wisdom," yet the ability to mentor is not always a matter of actual age. And this is especially true in this day and age when we talk about the specificities of different generations in business (Baby Boomers, X, Y, Z, and soon Alpha).

Thus, for several years now, "reverse mentoring" has been developing rapidly to help senior managers acclimatise to digital advances. To learn about complex tools or navigate social networks, this process is an excellent way to use the company's resources and consolidate the technological knowledge of senior employees.


A "Reverse Mentor" is a mentor :

An experienced person who has the self-confidence to value the transfer of his or her knowledge to other less experienced people, especially more senior, hierarchically advanced people. She is therefore motivated and willing to offer her skills, knowledge and vision of life to this senior, in order to help him, for example, to better navigate the digital world.

Some of the missions of the mentor:

  • Train the mentee to acquire specific skills,
  • Present applications to the mentee and provide him/her with the opportunity to prove himself/herself (exercises, role-playing),
  • Provide direct, useful and constructive feedback,
  • Provide moral support and reassurance to the mentee, particularly in times of doubt and loss of energy,
  • Agreeing to explain their own attitude (as a generation Y) so that the mentee does not get frustrated or feel overwhelmed.

The mentee in "reverse mentoring

A mentee is a person who is looking to evolve and modernise his or her work methods, motivated and ready to use the knowledge, skills and values offered by a junior. In addition to curiosity, the mentee will have to accept to put aside the sometimes very large hierarchical differences in order to put himself in the position of a non-knowledgeable person.

Some of the characteristics of a mentee:

  • Willingness to learn and develop in a new and perhaps difficult field,
  • Ability to express their needs, expectations and questions to a junior,
  • Open-mindedness to everything that could happen, in terms of know-how as well as interpersonal skills,
  • Ability to discuss and ask questions without feeling "disrespected",
  • Ability to accept feedback and advice,
  • Willingness to move forward through personal application of acquired notions.

The reverse mentoring relationship

This is similar to the classic mentoring relationship.

It is characterised by openness to the other, reciprocity, gratuity and voluntary work. It develops over the long term, sufficiently to facilitate learning, promote agility in the use of new tools and contribute to the development of both individuals involved. It can be developed within the framework of a formal program when an organisation encourages this mode of learning and personal and professional development. It is best to be guided by ethical rules defined according to the objectives.

The benefits of reverse mentoring

For the mentee
For the mentor
• Learning and anchoring new work methods and opening up to the most advanced operating modes. - Development of skills linked to the mentor's expertise and experience. - Understanding of the functioning of other generations in the company. - Development of agility and adaptability based on this new knowledge
• Source of valorisation, satisfaction of helping to progress. • Creation of new contacts. • Development of skills in terms of objectives, formulation, synthesis, patience, active listening, and diplomacy. • Knowing how to better transmit what is obvious, opening up to the rhythm and knowledge of a different generation.


2.1 Anchoring, prior to the meeting

  • Period of personal reflection.
  • Development of an attitude of openness and availability.
  • Clarification of various themes: my state of mind, my prejudices, my opinion of our relationship, the topics to be discussed, the targeted learning...

2.2 The beginning of the meeting

  • Short period to establish a positive and warm working climate.
  • Openness to the other person: listen, ask questions, be empathetic, and give feedback.
  • Adaptation to what is happening, "here and now".

2.3 Planning the work

  • Determining or confirming the topics to be discussed, based on needs, assessment of previous meetings or emergencies and current needs.

2.4 Work sessions

  • Discussions during which different relational skills are used (listening, feedback, etc).
  • Attitudes to facilitate learning and development.
  • Demonstrations, exercises, and practice if possible based on real cases of the mentee.
  • At the end of each session, take stock of :
  • o Acquired skills and possible areas for improvement

    o Expectations and topics to be discussed at the next meeting.

2.5 End of the mentoring relationship

  • The mentee becomes more autonomous, more independent and works on redefining other professional development goals
  • Discussion around the type of support needed to manage the mentee's other professional development steps.


Reverse mentoring may not be a simple exercise for either the mentor or the mentee. For one, it involves taking on a role that may not seem legitimate, and for the other, leaving the role of the "knower" to a younger person, the comfortable position of work habits to take risks in terms of both time and control, etc.

Whether you are a mentor or a mentee, in order to actually feel comfortable with reverse mentoring, it is important to ask yourself questions (and perhaps work on coaching) the following notions:

  • The difference between experience and expertise;
  • The benefits for both of us of sharing knowledge that the other lacks, regardless of age or hierarchical position.