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Workplace Mentoring Primer

Reverse Mentoring

Reverse Mentoring is a process where a more senior professional is mentored by a junior professional when the junior person has certain knowledge or skills that the more senior person aims to learn. Reverse mentoring is commonly used to support older professionals in learning how to use new technology, a skill that younger generations tend to know or pick up on more quickly.

According to Subha V. Barry, chief diversity officer at Merrill Lynch & Co, the company has a reverse mentoring program in which more junior employees from diverse backgrounds, particularly employees from under-represented groups, are paired with senior executives (Frankel B., 2008). The aim is for the junior level employees to help the senior executives learn how to effectively lead employees from diverse backgrounds. Barry reports senior executives develop the ability to see the organization from a different perspective.

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics uses a reserve mentoring program to improve employee retention and engagement and promote employee learning by sharing different generational perspectives and knowledge (Laviolette, 2009). Executive leaders and entry-level employees from all sites are invited to participate. Some executive level employees who were mentored by entry level employees shared the following comments on how they benefited from the program:

  • "I am gaining a true understanding of the expectations of our next generation of leaders, and also blowing up some myths."
  • "I changed my managerial tactic of "requiring O/T" to asking employees 'How should we fix this?'"
  • "(Reverse mentoring) changed how Aeronautics policies are rolled out. We now webcast in addition to emailing a memo."
  • "(Reverse mentoring) reminded me what it was like to be new before I had the power and influence I do today" (Laviolette, 2009).

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