Between November 2021 and January 2022, the number of vacant hospitality jobs in the UK went up by almost 700%, as compared to the same period of the previous year. For young, ambitious hospitality talent, there’s never a shortage of opportunities - if you’re older, though, those opportunities tend to dwindle. In recent years, the concept of reverse mentoring has gained popularity as a way to help older team members keep up with the times and thus stay employable. In this piece, we discuss how reverse mentoring can combat ageism in the hospitality workforce and offer tips to get started.

The Effects of Ageism on the Hospitality Industry

Ageism, as the term suggests, is the practice of discriminating against people because of their age. While ageism can affect any age group, it is older people who majorly bear the brunt of it, especially in the hospitality industry.  

Hotels and restaurants are notorious for wanting young, fresh talent. Almost all customer-facing roles seek youthful candidates, and most hospitality recruitment programs are designed for campus hiring, i.e. young graduates. Which makes sense to some degree - hospitality is a dynamic industry, especially as trends pivot post-Covid, and younger employees tend to be more adaptable to evolving roles. 

The problem with this approach, naturally, is that older employees feel devalued. They have the experience and the ability to do their job well, but are sidelined in favour of youth. Senior roles - like hotel manager - come with their perks, but not every older employee ends up as a manager. Many of them are left to compete with younger receptionists and concierges, often for the same roles and benefits, conscious that they will almost always be the second choice. They are highly likely to quit instead because of this. 

There’s also the problem of finding new hospitality jobs as an older professional. Many brands openly stipulate upper age limits when hiring hospitality staff, whilst others don’t tend to display preferences when calling candidates in for interviews. In addition, modern hospitality recruitment programs use Internet-based software - which, while efficient, tends to exclude the less digitally-savvy. And finally, older employees generally can’t be as flexible about work times and locations as younger recruits can. As things stand, therefore, the odds are stacked against them. 


→ 😎As a hospitality brand, you probably have all the talent you need in-house - they just need a little guidance to become rockstars! Learn more about how to make upskilling and reskilling work for you.

How Reverse Mentoring Can Increase Inclusion, Retention and Employability

While traditional mentoring imparts the wisdom of experience to new recruits, reverse mentoring involves younger employees coaching older ones in skills like digital communication or social media. In the hospitality context, it offers a unique answer to the ageism problem while boosting employee retention. Here’s how:

  • It boosts employability among older employees - Reverse mentoring serves as a more personalised complement to HR-led training programs, with younger mentors helping older mentees with specific skills they need guidance on. This helps mentees keep pace with changing times and feel confident with modern job requirements. Not only are they more employable, but they’re also more likely to stay on. 
  • It builds confidence in younger employees - With a reverse mentoring program, younger hotel/restaurant workers feel like more than just the new concierge or line cook. Mentoring helps them hone valuable leadership skills and take charge of their abilities in a new way - which is excellent for their confidence and self-esteem. 
  • It breaks down misconceptions and builds rapport - People often make assumptions about coworkers based on stereotypes about their generation. Millennials might think older people are slower and incapable of change, while older employees might think millennials and Gen Zers lack seriousness and are too impulsive. A reverse mentoring program allows people of different generations to see each other as individuals, and thus form meaningful bonds. This leads to a more productive team and a happier place of work, further aiding employee retention.  


→ 😎Looking for fresh perspectives without the hassle of recruitment? It might be time for a talent exchange program! Here’s how to make the most of one. 

How Hotels Can Implement a Reverse Mentoring Program

A reverse mentoring program requires some care and effort to set up, but once it’s underway, it has the potential to run itself. Here’s what we recommend for hospitality brands looking to explore this strategy in 2023.

  • Let seniors choose the skills they want to learn - Your older employees may resist the notion of learning from younger ones owing to a feeling of having “seen it all” during their tenure. Rather than asking them to change how they think, ask them to pinpoint specific skills that they have trouble with. Then, explain how a mentor can help them learn those skills hands-on.  
  • Match mentors and mentees strategically - While matching employees in the same function may seem like a good idea, it creates scope for conflict of interest during the course of job duties. Instead, match employees based on things they are likely to connect over, like sharing a common interest outside of work, or speaking the same first language. 
  • Make it a two-way learning process - Older employees are more likely to accept their younger mentor’s guidance if they’re made to feel like they too have something of value to offer. For instance, if the mentor is guiding the mentee through a hotel guest management app, the mentee could share tips on handling difficult guests based on their experiences. Encourage both mentors and mentees to keep the knowledge flowing both ways - everyone benefits in the process. 
  • Check in regularly with both parties - There may be some bumps at first in reverse mentoring, as the mentee adjusts to being taught by someone younger and the mentor adjusts to the increased responsibility in addition to their own learning and development. The HR team should check in often with both to ensure that they are comfortable with each other and that the mentoring process is happening as planned.

→ 😎Ready to pass the baton? Make sure your team is too! Read our top tips on succession planning for your hospitality brand. 

Millennials and Gen Zers will be sharing space with older employees for at least twenty years to come. It’s in everyone’s interest that they work together smoothly, and reverse mentoring offers a unique way for them to do so. Done right, reverse mentoring makes for an equitable workplace, helps everyone improve their skill sets and enhances mutual respect - all good reasons to give it a try!