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Diversity and Inclusion

5 Simple Steps To Start a Reverse Mentoring Program

  • 28/11/2022
  • Frances Campbell
  • 4 mins read

The benefits of reverse mentoring are huge. From leadership development and closing generational gaps to using reverse mentoring for diversity and inclusion initiatives, it’s an essential part of your employee growth toolkit.

This type of mentoring pairs senior leaders with junior staff for personal development. Sounds like traditional 1:1 mentoring right? Well, the key difference in reverse mentoring is that the junior person acts as the mentor. They will provide advice and support to their senior colleague.

This is what makes reverse mentoring so powerful. It puts someone new in the driving seat, helping them to gain invaluable experience and impart knowledge and expertise to senior leaders in a structured way.

If you’re ready to transform the development of your people through reverse mentoring, then you’re in the right place. In this guide we’ll take you through 5 simple steps to starting a reverse mentoring program in your organisation.

If you want to learn more about what reverse mentoring means and its benefits, read our guide.

How to start a reverse mentoring program

Step 1: Outline the objective

The first step is to define the purpose of your reverse mentoring program. By identifying which use of reverse mentoring is most critical to your people, you can then outline what success will look like and how to measure it.

For example:

Objective of the program: Digital skills development

Method: The reverse mentoring program will pair junior employees with advanced digital skills with more senior employees that need to improve in this area. The mentors will offer training and support in digital skills the mentees want to develop.

Success: The mentees will have a greater understanding of digital skills by the end of the reverse mentoring program, and increased confidence in discussing technology.

Measure: Surveys and digital literacy tests before and after the program.

Step 2: Design the reverse mentoring program

Once the basics are mapped out, it’s time to work out the details. Here you need to outline:

  • Who will be on the program?
  • Are you selecting participants?
  • How many spaces will be available?
  • Will it be a set length or ongoing?
  • How do people sign up?
  • What is the expected commitment?
  • How will you monitor progress?

The answers to these questions will naturally vary from business to business and depending on the objective of the program. It’s important to be as detailed as possible at this planning stage to help your reverse mentoring program run as smoothly as possible.

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Step 3: Recruit mentors and mentees

Depending on whether your program is open (anyone can apply) or closed (selected participants) you’ll be onboarding mentors and mentees differently.

Using mentoring software like Guider makes things easier, as you can simply send out a link for people to sign up and create a profile. Within minutes they can be matched with a mentor/mentee. If you’re doing things manually, this will take a little longer.

You will need to promote the program through your internal communication channels, as well as identify target participants and invite them personally. Remember to communicate the benefits of reverse mentoring and highlight the skills and experience they will gain.

You may need to raise awareness and answer questions such as ‘What is reverse mentoring’ through content, communications campaigns and events.

Step 4: Matching mentors and mentees

An important part of setting up a reverse mentoring program is deciding how you will match the mentors and mentees. This again may vary depending on how many participants there are in the program and how they have been selected.

Typically, matches are made based on the skill set of the mentor and the desired improvement areas of the mentee, as well as personality traits and common interests. Program managers can either do this manually, using spreadsheets and their own intuition of who could make a good match or using mentoring software such as Guider.

The issue with matching mentors and mentees manually is the risk of unconscious bias or favouritism at play. For example, if the person doing the matching knew some participants personally but had never met others, their choice of mentor/mentee could be affected.

Guider uses a matching algorithm to accurately match people with the best-suited mentors for them, removing human bias and supporting inclusivity. This is particularly important if you’re using reverse mentoring for diversity and inclusion purposes.

Read our article on running a productive mentoring session to provide support to your mentors and mentees

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Step 5: Launch and monitor the reverse mentoring program

Once your participants are matched, you can officially launch the program! It’s good to commemorate the launch in some way to make participants feel like they’re part of something and build a sense of community. This will help to increase commitment and maintain momentum as the relationship develops.

In order to get off to a good start, provide support and resources to the mentors and mentees to help them navigate and build their new professional relationships.

Note: this is crucial when the reverse mentoring program is focused on diversity and inclusion. Both mentor and mentee will require training on approaching and discussing uncomfortable topics, empathy, self-awareness, and what to do if the sessions are not going well.

Track how frequently the mentors and mentees are meeting, and develop a sound system for receiving feedback from the participants to know if the program is working towards your desired business objective. As reverse mentoring is very qualitative programs are traditionally difficult to measure, which is where mentoring software again offers great insight and support.

Read our article: How to Measure the Success of Your Mentoring Program

Finally, continue to monitor the progress of the participants and measure the success of the reverse mentoring program against your objective. If you need further reading on how to start a mentoring program, this article is a good read.

By following these steps when setting up your reverse mentoring program, you’re setting yourself up for success! Whether you are looking to improve cultural competency in senior leadership or up-skill in digital technologies, reverse mentoring can help.

Want to learn more about how mentoring software can transform your reverse mentoring programs? Talk to our mentoring guides today!