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Reverse Mentoring Works

Debra Sunohara


I am older therefore I am wiser.

This is true to a certain extent, because experience does give you credibility.  And by this definition young employees can be wise as well. Young, tech-savvy people have a lot of experience with the Internet, social media and new technologies of the day.

But can young people really teach a thing or two to older people? Of course they can, and if you don’t believe me ask Mark Zuckerberg or any of the world leaders who attended the G8 summit in France.

Reverse Mentoring—A Two-Way Knowledge Flow

The key to reverse mentoring is that it is mutually beneficial; both of the parties involved share knowledge with one another. This works because learning is a continuous process, whether you are a student or a 30-year veteran within your organization.

Reverse mentoring can be seen as a more senior employee, “the mentee” in an organization being coached by a more junior employee, the “mentor” in something that the senior is not very familiar with. Samuels appeal-275x389For businesses the most popular area of mentoring is technology.

The mentee will gain a better knowledge of the benefits of social media, and the many other business applications of the Internet through this mentoring relationship.

But the greatest potential gains for the senior employee—better understanding of the psychology of the mentor’s generation.

A Way to Bridge the Intergenerational Gap?

Long has been the discussion of the intergenerational divide and the issues that accompany it. Could reverse mentoring be a way to mesh the many generations in the workforce together?

There are many benefits to incorporating a reverse mentoring program into your organization:

  • A win-win situation
  • An effective means of bettering intra-organizational communication
  • The collaboration of young and old knowledge fosters innovation
  • Bridging the intergeneration gap
  • Creates engagement
  • Promotes trust
  • Shares the energy of juniors with the organization
  • Reduce time and money commitment to training activities
  • The mentee gains more than just improved use of technology
  • The mentor gains invaluable career advice and knowledge
  • The mentor can demonstrate their capabilities
  • Experienced leaders learn how to better manage their younger employees
  • Creates a closer relationship between seniors and juniors

We are living in a digital era. The way we do everything is different, from how we communicate to how we work. And more than ever, it's important that we embrace the new if for no other reason than to better understand our clients.

Turbo charge Your Mentoring

Time is money so don’t waste it, make the most out of your mentoring time by following these guidelines:

  • Decide what both parties want to accomplish
  • Decide how often you will meet
  • Plan how the sessions will be carried out
  • Keep an open mind, be flexible and don’t be ageist
  • Listen to each other
  • Have patience
  • Make sure there is no misunderstanding of one another due to communication style differences

There will be challenges along the way as with any other program, but the benefits of a successful reverse mentoring relationship are numerous and the return on investment makes it well worth the while. 

Do you incorporate reverse mentoring into your organization? Do you have any advice for those who are considering reverse mentoring?


Incredible article Debra. It is very informative and educative. I must admit that rapidly changing technological advancement has made it difficult for older generation to maintain pace.  Whereas this technological and internet revolution has made our younger generation smarter in thinking and making best use of them. Due to the Social Media and ever changing hi-tech gadgets, the flow of information is on their finger tips.Therefore reverse mentoring will not be successful unless we recognize this fact by paying tribute to our younger generation by reciting the proverb “The child is father of the man”. The picture posted on your blog also reinforces this belief. To quote this proverb in its totality, I will take the opportunity of writing the poem of William Wordsworth called “My heart leaps up when I behold” which is as follows:“My heart leaps up when I beholdA rainbow in the sky;So was it when my life began;So is it now I am a man;So be it when I shall grow old,Or let me die!The Child is father of the man;I could wish my days to beBound each to each by natural piety”If older generation could understand the hidden message of the poem then I am sure they will be more than willing to participate in reverse mentoring. You have rightly mentioned that learning is a continuous process and both generations can take advantage from each other’s experience.  In this case learning becomes more interesting because both may have different views on similar issues. Juniors can bring fresh ideas which can be tailored or reinforced with senior’s knowledge, experience and wisdom. Once again an excellent read and hope organizations will be benefitted by following your valuable guidelines.

By SUMAN S. SINHA on 2012/03/02

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Posted by Debra Sunohara
Posted on February 29, 2012

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