In the movie, The Intern (2015), Robert DeNiro plays the role of a 70-year-old widower who isn’t very happy about his retirement. He becomes a senior intern at a leading e-commerce startup led by a much younger CEO. It’s interesting to note the dynamics that play out between a baby boomer intern and a thirty-something millennial.

The movie is a classic example of reverse mentoring and how it’s catching up in today’s competitive job markets. Organizations have realized the growing need to mend the gap between the current generation and their preceding generations.  Read on to explore what is reverse mentoring and why it’s important in this fast-paced world of work.


  1. Meaning Of Reverse Mentoring

  2. Why Is Reverse Mentoring Important?

  3. Setting Up A Successful Reverse Mentoring Program

Meaning Of Reverse Mentoring

Mentoring is a proven method for career advancement. It’s perceived as a practice where younger or less experienced employees learn and gain knowledge from older and more experienced people. Reverse mentoring is when people in executive positions are paired with younger employees to learn about various topics of strategic and cultural relevance. The method recognizes that there are skill gaps that can be filled on both sides of the mentoring spectrum.

It was John Francis Welch Junior (widely known as Jack Welch)—former Chairman and CEO of General Electric—who popularized the reverse mentoring concept. He wanted to teach senior executives about the Internet. However, today’s reverse mentoring programs go beyond technology and focuses on other strategic issues. Some examples of reverse mentoring include hosting small group discussions around a particular trend or topic, practicing knowledge sharing as a subject matter expert and providing a space to be heard and helping build self-confidence.

Why Is Reverse Mentoring Important?

Here are some key benefits of reverse mentoring that highlight its need in the modern workplace. Consider these advantages as you design relevant programs and activities.

  1. Improves Connection

When you bring two employees together, they gain deeper insight into the organization. Sometimes, it even creates a safe space for mentees to share their honest feelings with mentors. This further connects them to the overall workplace culture.

  1. Enables Inclusion

Reverse mentoring programs provide opportunities to build inclusive relationships as it doesn’t focus on age, gender and other cultural differences. In fact, it encourages diversity and conversations around it, which improves knowledge sharing and awareness.

  1. Empowers Mentors

While this type of mentoring benefits mentees, it’s also very helpful for mentors, who are the next generation of leaders. They understand the value of knowledge sharing and the why behind what they’re doing. It allows them to reflect on their methods and gain deeper insight into an organization’s products or services.

Setting Up A Successful Reverse Mentoring Program

Simply implementing a reverse mentoring program isn’t enough. You need to ensure the likelihood of the program’s success too. Here are five simple yet effective steps you can follow.

  1. Step 1: Outline The Expectations

Mentors and mentees should have clarity about the purpose of the program and what they can expect from it. Having realistic expectations will further help everyone set goals that are attainable throughout the program.

  1. Step 2: Set Achievable Goals

Goals should be set by each participant. These should align with the overall business objectives. The goals should be specific, measurable, realistic and time-bound. A few examples include enhancing communication skills, developing leadership skills and expanding professional networks.

  1. Step 3: Define Your Matching Criteria

The success of your program is defined by the pairing you create. An important thing to remember is that mentors and mentees are agreeing to a non-traditional relationship. You need to think of different ways to help them engage and successfully work through challenges.

  1. Step 4: Train Your Mentors And Mentees

Without proper instructions and training, participants may face disagreements or conflicts as they’re being put in non-traditional roles. Training provides a clear understanding of their roles and what they need to do to be successful.

  1. Step 5: Monitor Your Program’s Success

Make sure to track the success of your program by implementing tracking metrics. By actively monitoring participants and participation, you can make changes as required. Gather participant feedback through surveys and use the data to make adjustments.

Setting up a successful mentoring program requires a good understanding of your workplace. Harappa’s Navigating Workplaces course will teach you to assess your workplace culture through the Culture Fit tool. Additionally, the Thomas Kilmann Model will help individuals productively deal with differences and conflicts. Identify the best way to bring people together and help your organization succeed with greater efficiency.

Explore topics such as What is Organizational StructureTypes of Organizational Structure, Aspects of Organizational CultureMatrix Organizational Structure & The Difference Between Functional and Divisional Structure from Harappa Diaries and understand organizational culture and needs.

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