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11th Jan, 2024

Christy Houghton
Christy Houghton
Job Title
Digital Content Writer

Mentoring is a type of relationship that encourages both personal and professional development. It’s thought that it only benefits the mentee, but it can be a valuable learning experience for both mentees and mentors. Mentoring schemes typically last three months to a year but can be longer depending on the mentee’s goals.

For employers who don’t currently have a mentoring scheme, January is the best time to implement one, as it’s when people are most motivated to make positive change and start something new. 

Traditionally, mentoring has typically been a top-down learning exercise, with a more senior colleague providing advice to a junior professional. However, there is value in senior professionals learning from those in more junior positions, for several reasons, especially the chance to develop their inclusive mindset. 

Reverse mentoring encourages people of any age and seniority to feel their voice is important and their experience is useful to others in their company. Anyone can be a leader, regardless of their job title.  

Ahead of National Mentoring Month 2024, we spoke to Lauren Hudson, Head of Customer Success at Guider, who shared how best to set up reverse mentoring schemes for success and to boost inclusion and diversity in organisations. 

Lauren Hudson - Guider

Lauren Hudson, Head of Customer Success at Guider 

Q: What is reverse mentoring? 

A: Reverse mentoring is when you have the opposite format of traditional mentoring. It’s where the senior leader is being mentored by a younger, but generally more junior, employee. The reverse mentoring process recognises that there are skills gaps and opportunities on both sides of the mentoring relationship. Once you flip that traditional format on its head, it can be beneficial for both parties.  

What it also does – which I love – is it really challenges the idea of mentoring being elitist. It's not about the senior person taking someone under their wing, it's more of a formal relationship that's set up for the purpose of skill sharing and personal development. 

Also, depending on what you're doing and why you're running a reverse mentoring scheme, it can be an essential part of schemes like diversity and inclusion. If you've got diversity and inclusion initiatives that you're running and objectives that you're trying to hit, as well as corporate leadership training, it just gives that opportunity to develop future leaders. 

Reverse mentoring is all about being open to the idea of learning from someone you might not have thought you could learn from, no matter how junior they are. It's about knowing that you can learn from anybody, no matter how much experience they've got. It's that open mindset that makes reverse mentoring programmes really flourish. 

It can improve cultural awareness and diversity and inclusion across the business and all that filters down from the leadership team, so encourages them to be more self-aware.  

Q: What's the difference between setting up a mentoring scheme versus a reverse mentoring scheme? 

A: There are only a couple of differences. First, the content that you put out across the business to encourage people to sign up to the programme will be different to a traditional mentoring scheme. We work closely with employers to encourage them to present the content in certain ways to reflect what they’re doing and why.  

The audience is another element that will be different, so you’ll need to adapt the content to target the right people. Which teams do you want to engage with it?  

With reverse mentoring, you should first reach out to senior leaders and explain what it is and its benefits – because, I think, people in senior roles can be slightly hesitant to run a reverse mentoring scheme – but once they understand the benefits they can gain as well, they become much more engaged with it. 

Q: What are the benefits of reverse mentoring for mentors?

A: Reverse mentoring, and any mentoring relationship, can really benefit both the mentors and mentees. With reverse mentoring, the benefits would be around inclusivity across the company, sharing different perspectives, cultures and backgrounds, improving cultural competency, and developing empathy and an understanding of others. 

It also really helps to build a learning culture across the business. Reverse mentoring is an effective method to help you start to break down hierarchical business structures, if that’s how your business operates and is something it’s trying to get away from. 

Q: What best practice tips do you have for business leaders on implementing a reverse mentoring scheme if they don't already have one? 

A: With any mentoring scheme, it’s about understanding the deeper reason for implementing it, not just because someone told you to. 

Firstly, it’s best to identify which areas of the business are important. What are the business goals and objectives you're trying to meet as a business over the next year? For instance, if it's getting 50% of women into leadership roles by January 2025, then you'll want to look to run a mentoring programme that actively and specifically supports that. 

Here at Guider, we've got a customer success team that works closely with our customers to help them identify which mentoring programmes will suit them, depending on the objectives and kind of business goals that they share with us. 

Q: How can business leaders ensure their reverse mentoring scheme has a positive impact on mentees and mentors? 

A: As with anything, learning is all down to data. It's all about capturing as much information as you can before the mentoring scheme starts and then again after you've run it. It could be that you send out a questionnaire to employees that are thinking about taking part.  

You could ask them questions about the current level of support across the company, how employees are encouraged within their development currently, and what the company is doing to proactively help with that. Once you've got that, capture the same data again at the end and compare to measure how that's improved throughout. 

We often encourage our customers to find somebody within the mentoring programme who’s a real champion for it – somebody that can help spread the word across the company and encourage more people to take part. That can also help to ensure you're going to see some positive return on investment within the mentoring programmes that you're running. 

Q: In the feedback you receive, what seems to surprise people the most about their mentoring experiences? 

A: We get a lot of feedback, especially from mentors. They are always surprised about how much they got out of the mentoring programmes and relationships with mentees.  

I think people often go into it believing that it's all about the mentee and the mentee is the only person who's going to be gaining something beneficial from the programme. But that’s not the case at all.  

Mentors often come to us and tell us how much they've got from the programme themselves. They've gained XYZ experience and confidence and self-awareness and all of these great qualities that will help them progress in their own careers. 

Another bit of feedback that we tend to get from people is that they weren't aware of how many types of mentoring programmes there are, and the fact that you can tailor them. 

None of our mentoring programmes are a one-size-fits-all and, at Guider, we run thousands of programmes and each one looks very different to the next. For example, Reed has its own mentoring scheme, powered by Guider, for women in technology. It's all based around the businesses we work with, what they're trying to achieve, and the company objectives that they're trying to hit. 

If you’re looking for talented professionals or a new role, contact your nearest Reed office.