Developing Your Talent

Reverse Mentoring as a Knowledge-Sharing Tool

By JC Heinen on May 6, 2013

Organizations view institutional knowledge as a vital asset that is critical to success. To capitalize on the information that resides within talent, this expertise and insight must be shared across all levels of the organization. One proven method for knowledge sharing across the organization is reverse mentoring.

Reverse mentoring turns the traditional mentoring model (senior-level employees mentoring younger, less-experienced workers) upside down, providing the opportunity for high potential workers to share their perspective and knowledge with their more experienced, senior colleagues.

The mentoring relationship is stronger when it’s mutually beneficial. Younger workers, for example, may gain insight into management decision-making while heightening their visibility in the organization. The more experienced partner can benefit from the infusion of fresh and diverse viewpoints and the tech savvy of the younger generation.

An organization implementing a reverse mentoring program should emphasize the following:

  • Set expectations. Mentoring partners should have a clear understanding of the goals of the mentoring relationship as well as the expectations of the organization.
  • Respect differences. Reverse mentoring is a great way to reduce all types of stereotyping within the organization – age, gender, race, disability, etc.
  • Be generous with time. The mentoring partnership must be a priority with regular meetings and follow-up via email or telephone. If meetings are too infrequent, the relationship will lose momentum and learning won’t take place.
  • Allow for spontaneity. Be open to the experience. Some of the best learnings may come from activities that are less formal or structured.

To reap the maximum benefit from reverse mentoring programs, carefully structure and monitor the programs. Once the partners have agreed to the mentoring “contract,” a reverse mentoring relationship will function as a low-cost, high value method for sharing knowledge and exchanging ideas in your organization.

2 Responses to “Reverse Mentoring as a Knowledge-Sharing Tool”

  1. Cynthia Palomo

    What other examples of reverse mentoring have you found within organizations? The majority of the reading I do and webinars I attend tend to highlight the tech-savvy component of the junior employee. I’m interested in other creative/innovative ways companies are using reverse mentoring.

    • Lee Hecht Harrison

      Hi Cynthia — thanks for your post. As I’m sure you know, junior employees offer a lot more in a reverse mentoring relationship than just technical expertise. Pairing younger workers as mentors with more senior employees allows the mentee to gain new insights and perspectives on trends, new products, creative ideas, etc. that they won’t get from their usual associates. It’s a great way to help senior employees see with “fresh eyes”, try new approaches and provide younger employees an opportunity to contribute at a higher level.


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