Major function of mentoring


Mentoring is usually a formal or informal relationship between two people—a senior mentor (usually outside the chain of supervision) and a junior mentee. Mentoring has been identified as an important influential factor in professional development in both the public and private sector. The major function of mentoring within these programs is to promote the mentees development in specific areas and to facilitate successful completion of the program. While these mentoring relationships can produce positive developmental and organizational outcomes, both mentoring programs and relationships sometimes fail due to a variety of causes and problems (e.g., lack of participation, no leadership involvement, poor planning, unrealistic expectations, and unclear goals). Successful mentoring programs require proper understanding, planning, implementation and evaluation.

When we think of mentoring, we usually think of someone with a lot of experience teaching and developing a younger novice. In recent years, mentoring has taken on many other forms such as peer and group mentoring. One of the newest forms is Reverse Mentoring. In reverse mentoring a senior employee is also mentored by the junior employee. The traditional one-way street becomes a two-way thoroughfare where employees of all ages can learn from each other.

The concept of reverse mentoring is said to have begun a decade ago at General Electric when then-CEO, Jack Welch realized he and his management team had much to learn about the Internet. Welch required 600 top executives, himself included, to find younger mentors who were knowledgeable about the internet. Most of the mentors were in their 20s and 30s.

Reverse Mentoring -- is the mentoring of a senior person (in terms of age, experience or position) by a junior (in terms of age, experience or position) individual. Reverse mentoring aims to help older, more senior people learn from the knowledge of younger people, usually in the field of information technology, computing, and Internet communications. The key to success in reverse mentoring is the ability to create and maintain an attitude of openness to the experience and dissolve the barriers of status, power and position.

Reverse mentoring is most appropriate and powerful in situations where two individuals each have knowledge and skills the other needs to contribute to organizational performance. As a senior manager, give careful thought to where those opportunities exist in your own organization. The following possibilities may trigger ideas.

Senior employees can learn from younger coworkers. It's common knowledge that younger people can benefit from older mentors who can transfer their accumulated knowledge and expertise. What can an experienced employee learn from a younger coworker? The answer is quite a bit.

  • Technology. The youngest generation in the workforce today, known as Generation Y, is the first group of IT experts. Having grown up with technology and the Internet their entire lives, they are tech-savvy multi-taskers who easily master the latest tech gadget or tool. Baby Boomers and older workers, on the other hand, often need to upgrade their technology skills - and for many who plan to remain in the workforce - tech competence is a must.
  • Subject matter advances. With the recent explosion of information, even the most accomplished professional has difficulty keeping up with the latest developments in his or her field. Employees who are fresh out of school can share the latest thinking in a specific field (e.g., health care delivery, education or the environment), thereby helping later stage careerists remain current and enhancing their own capabilities and contributions.
  • Diversity. Most organizations continually work to increase diversity in their workplace. Research has shown that the youngest generation now at work is comfortable with and values diversity more than any age group to come before them. Their perspective can help in organizational efforts at enhancing diversity and inclusion.
  • Risk taking. Younger employees who grew up with technology developed a "trial and error" style of learning in which they are comfortable jumping in to a situation to figure things out. Such risk-taking can free up old habits and drive workplace innovation.
  • Global perspective. The Internet has expanded younger workers' geographic perspective. On social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, young adults learn about global social issues such as world hunger, genocide in Darfur or endangered Beluga whales off Alaska. Their day-to-day social networks often include friends from all over the world. Even if a friend moves back to Paris or Taiwan (as was the case with two of my daughters' friends), they are just a click away. "Think global, act local" is second nature.

Get off to a strong start. Reverse mentoring doesn't just happen by sitting two people of different ages in a meeting room. As you get started, here are some guidelines for managers to follow to help make reverse mentoring a success:

  • Do some planning to pick the right people. Identify individuals with the knowledge and skills their counterparts need.
  • Meet with the employees to convey the organization's goals for bringing them together, emphasize how much you believe each person can learn from the other, and set expectations.
  • Train each participant in mentoring or coaching as needed.
  • Have each pair agree on what they want to accomplish and how/when to measure the results.
  • Have them meet on a regular schedule and communicate in between meetings by phone or online.
  • Make the time to ensure there is time to work together. Part of planning may be how to clear something off of each person's schedule.
  • Beware of age stereotypes, no matter how enlightened you may think you are. Put these on the table, ask the mentors to suspend them, and pay attention to each other's different learning styles.

Have fun! Managers and experienced workers take heed. If we take the time to get to know younger employees and get over our fears and stereotypes about them (e.g., they are not slackers; they just prefer to work at different times and from different places), we might just find that their youthful perspective can not only enhance our own skills, but can also be interesting and fun. Not coincidentally, fun is a workplace trait highly valued by younger workers.


Power Mentoring: How Successful Mentors And Protégés Get The Most Out Of Their Relationships, Ensher and Murphy (2005). This book provides the fundamentals for mentors and protégés who want to create a connection or improve on the mentor/protégé relationship. The book is filled with illustrative examples from the most successful mentors and protégés.

Creating a Mentoring Culture: The Organization's Guide, Lois (2005). This book provides organizations with the basics on setting up mentoring programs. The book provides checklists, worksheets, and toolkits.

The Mentoring Advantage: Creating the Next Generation of Leaders, Florence (2004). This book provides a general introduction to mentoring and its benefits to those who are new to mentoring. This book also provides insight on the qualities to look for in a mentor or protégé and discusses existing mentoring programs including IBM and JP Morgan. You can also find useful checklists, worksheets, templates, assessment tools, case studies, and tips to use in creating a mentoring program.

The Mentor's Guide: Facilitating Effective Learning Relationships, Lois (2000). This book provides tools and tips for mentors and protégés to build and maintain an effective mentoring relationship. Worksheets are provided to help mentors develop their mentoring skills.

The Step-by-Step Guide to Starting an Effective Mentoring Program, Cohen (2000). This book offers practical information for organizations that are looking to start-up and operate mentoring programs.

The Mentoring Coordinator's Guide, Linda (2003). This guide includes detailed information on how to design, manage, and evaluate a program. Guide topics include: Coordinator's View of Mentoring, Strategic Considerations, Glossary of Mentoring Terms, The Formal Mentoring Process, Skills for Successful Mentoring, Etiquette of Mentoring, Challenges in Planned Mentoring, Identifying Target Groups and Needs, Finalizing Your Design, Communicating about the Mentoring Initiative, Recruiting Participants, Selecting and Matching Mentors and Mentees, Role of the Mentee's Immediate Manager, Developing Mentors and Mentees, Helping Mentees Set Compelling Goals, Evaluating a Mentoring Initiative, and Special Topics in Mentoring (enhanced informal mentoring, distance mentoring, mentoring groups, reverse mentoring, and cross-difference mentoring).

Linney, B.J. (1999). Characteristics of Good Mentors. Physician Executive, 70-72. This article describes the characteristics and traits of a good mentor and gives accounts of actual mentoring relationships (formal and informal).

Mentoring Programs in the Federal Public Service: Status and Best Practices, Government of Canada (2004). This study contains useful information on existing mentoring programs in the Public Service of Canada and explains why these programs are successful. The recommendations made for a successful mentoring program can easily apply to Federal agencies interested in either establishing a new mentoring program or improving current mentoring programs.

Smith, W.J et al (2005). Essential Formal Mentoring Characteristics and Functions in Governmental and Non-governmental Organizations from the Program Administrator's and Mentor's Perspective. Public Personnel Management. 34.1, 1-28. This study examines who mentors are as well as what mentors do in four types of organizations (i.e., academic, business, military-armed forces, and military academic organizations).

Sosik, J.J., & Lee, D.L. (2002). Mentoring in Organizations: A Social Judgment Perspective for Developing Tomorrow's Leaders. The Journal of Leadership Studies, 8, 17-32. This paper presents a theory of mentoring that proposes effective mentorship fundamentally depends on the mentor's ability to help solve various complex social problems that arise in the protégé's career.

Young, A.M, & Perrewé P.L. (2004). An Analysis of Mentor and Protégé Expectations in Relation to Perceived Support. Journal of Managerial Issues, 16, 103-126. This article describes the impact of perception and attitudes on participation (based on general beliefs and past experiences of participants).

Kirkpatrick's Learning and Training Evaluation Theory ( This website provides an overview of Donald Kirkpatrick's four levels of learning evaluation model.

The Keys to Mentoring Success, Kathy W D (2004). This book contains a step-by-step approach for establishing and running a mentoring program.

ASTD Handbook for Workplace Learning Professionals, edited by Elaine (2008). This handbook contains best practices in the field of learning and development. Topics included in the handbook are needs assessment and analysis, designing and developing effective learning, and measuring and evaluating impact.

According to Brewerton (2002 p. 22)., mentoring can be divided into the two types - formal (as arranged by an employer or professional group such as ALIA), or informal, where the two parties both agree on the learning content to be covered, aims and goals of the relationship and the professional expectations, boundaries and time limits; 'often unplanned, a certain' chemistry' emerges, drawing two individuals together for the purpose of professional /personal growth'. Brewerton (2002, p. 23) attributes the upsurge of interest in mentoring to the changing world of work, which encompasses rapid technological change, new styles of management with the emphasis on continuous learning and new approaches to learning as a consequence to survive in this new environment.

Baily (2009, p. 111) does highlight that 'generational differences have been identified as being potential barriers (or advantages) between people'. In discussing generations, she asserts that there is an associated parental authority inherent subconsciously in any interaction between generations. Baily (2009, p. 112) also discusses the missed opportunity when reverse intergenerational learning is restricted only to learning new information technology. Creative synergy to problem-solving is one such opportunity.

Ehrich et al (2004, p. 526) noted that lack of time was the most frequently cited problem affecting the outcome of a successful mentoring program.

Field (2001, p. 270) asserts that reverse mentoring is most effective when both parties are honest'.

Mentoring Works 2008. Based on old paradigm mentoring where a more senior person (in terms of age, position or experience) mentors a junior, reverse mentoring places the more junior person as the mentor. Usually used when executives need to understand operations or technology that can be shared by shop floor, front-line or techsavvy employees

(Carter 2004). Executives and CEOs are comfortable with technology and now reverse mentoring is more about providing them with the younger perspective. Reverse mentoring is a very powerful concept if you broaden it beyond the narrow technical area'


  • To asses impact on the organisation.
  • To know more about the concept of Reverse Mentoring
  • To assess the pros and cons of reverse mentoring.


  • To study different cases on Reverse Mentoring related to different organisation.
  • To get an in depth view of Reverse Mentoring and assess the effect and benefit of it.


Reverse Mentoring is a new concept in comparison to other metoring techniques. A in depth study is required to understand its effect on the organisation. The study can also reveal that how this can benefit a organisation. Also the look into the cases will take out the problems and short comings relating to Reverse Mentoring.


To study the secondary sources such as articles, studies and data on Reverse Mentoring. It will be a study conducted on secondary sources. Cases of the different organisations will be studied and the impact will be assessed.


The research will be conducted on the secondary sources. Different cases from the organisations will be studied and effect of the reverse mentoring would be assessed.



CASE I:- Bharti Airtel

When Amit Singh joined Bharti Airtel a year-ago, he didn't even dream he would make it to the corner room of the billion-dollar telecom company in such a short span.

Well, the 28-year-old is not yet the CEO, but he mostly spends his time in the president's cabin. These days, the avid Formula One fan mentors Bharti Airtel president Sanjay Kapoor on all things trendy such as gizmos, fashion, sports, even eating out.

Mr Singh is one among the new stars in an ambitious mentoring campaign that the company is putting together for its top executives, taking a leaf out of legendary CEO Jack Welch's "reverse mentoring" strategy.

At India's largest mobile telephony operator, the thinking goes like this: If Bharti has to tap into India's 560-million youth by graduating from plain-vanilla voice and SMS to lifestyle services, first-hand insights are valuable.

"We understand that revenues will come from music, entertainment and banking on the mobile. Most of our leadership team is in their 40s and early-50s, and have all been assigned young mentors to help them understand what future customers want," said Mr Kapoor.

And learning together is a fun way to do business, said Saurabh Sharma, another youngster, who mentors Airtel's executive director (ED) for eastern & western operations K Srinivas. "I am learning to play guitar and now Mr Srinivas, too, is looking at joining a music school at Gurgaon," he said. More than guitar, Mr Sharma has taught his mentor to try out social networking, blogging, online file sharing and download music from internet.

"Reverse mentoring" as a concept came into the limelight, when Jack Welch, then-chairman of GE, got about 500 of his top managers to work with youngsters and become internet savvy. Bharti's ED Mr Srinivas is of the view that mentors have a role to play even when the management is internet savvy.

"Since the younger generation knows so much more of internet, the reverse mentoring process has given me the drive and the motivation to keep up with the latest developments in the virtual world," he explains.

Experts say that while the concept can be introduced across all industries, it works best for sectors where technology plays a vital role, but is not the main focus of the company.

Anjana Nair, a management executive with Bharti, who mentors executive director (north) Sayed Safawi, feels the concept can bring different generations closer. "He wanted to know aspirations and feeling of youngsters in Bharti, including me. I also explained why the youth are on Facebook, Orkut and LinkedIn," said Ms Nair.

Well, the impact is there on the ground to see. Mr Kapoor, well updated on F1 these days, checks his employees' perceptions and reactions to various new initiatives of the company on blogs and online forums. "I did not know that there are several blogs and online forums run by Bharti employees. The management as well as Bharti's marketing team seconds their research with opinions on the blogs and web," he said.

Going further, Bharti plans to make this strategy an integral part of its corporate culture, where all circle CEOs and functional heads across different states will be assigned local mentors from within the same centres.

Slowly, this will be extended to other segments, where the company operates, such as retail and financial services.


When young executives have to learn in an organisation they look up to their senior managers. But how do CEOs learn? Simple. They learn from employees below the line. The Godrej group prefers to call this process reverse mentoring.

From 2001 onwards, for nearly two years Adi B Godrej, chairman of the Godrej group, has taken lessons on information technology, sales and marketing from two young managers — Saugata Saha, an area sales manager with Godrej Consumer Products Ltd (GCPL), and Sheetal Shirke, a marketing manager with Godrej Sara Lee.

These 20-something managers were chosen as mentors because of their front-line contact with customers, which kept them informed of current best practices.

They offered Godrej feedback on a variety of issues, from new ideas for existing processes to updates on the latest techniques in marketing, advertising and market research, for two to four hours every month.

As the mentors listed out a variety of ideas in their monthly interactions with the ultimate authority in the group, some of their suggestions soon found a place among the group's best practices.

Shirke's update on latest market research techniques ensured that the group took market research more seriously, while Saha's suggestion on sales-related issues also found takers.

For instance, some of the changes in the Godrej distribution network, like the appointment of super-stockists and sub-stockists, can be linked in some ways to what transpired in the mentoring sessions.

Other areas, too, benefited from the interaction — like the management training programme where employees from all functions are put on a forced job-rotation in sales; everybody has to perform a customer-facing job for some time in order to empathise with the system.

Even ideas that would normally have been shot down at the middle management stage, got a patient hearing and were discussed in detail. One example is the idea of closing monthly accounts on the 20th of every month instead of the 31st.

This would help salesmen be in the field when they needed to be present, instead of completing sales records in the office. But because of the financial complexities involved, the suggestion could not be implemented.

However, Saha's biggest recognition came when he was selected as Godrej's executive assistant soon after. In a discussion with The Strategist, Godrej talks about his experience with reverse mentoring. Excerpts:

"Reverse mentoring is an excellent process because senior managers need to learn certain aspects of business from young managers. At the same time senior managers can impart a lot of knowledge and inspiration to young managers.

"Saha was my mentor for two things (information technology, or IT, and sales), while Shirke was keeping me updated on marketing.

"At the same time, I was mentoring them on leadership. For instance, I taught them things like how to continuously learn, how to distinguish between managing and leading and so on.

"I did not take any applications when I chose them. I just asked my group management committee who would fit the bill. After receiving feedback I approached them. They were eager.

"These mentors were not necessarily experts. If they did not know enough on a given subject, they would find out. I strongly recommend that the mentor need not be an expert. Choosing any young high-flier in the organisation is good enough.

"I chose young people because in areas like IT, the skills of younger people are far stronger than older people. When I was young, IT hardly existed. As a result of mentoring I am now comfortable dealing with technology and even use a palm-top.

"Basically, I could harness IT to improve productivity. And my relationship with the mentors developed so well that Saha has now become my executive assistant. Shirke, meanwhile, has relocated to the US for further studies.

"Reverse mentoring has been used by others but I do not remember where I got this idea. This is not a common practice but not unknown either. But this is a technique specifically used by senior managers to update their skills.

"While I used IT mentoring to update personal skills, for marketing and sales I needed a young person who would let us know what are the new things the group could do to add value.

"While I have a lot of experience in marketing and sales over the years, I needed to understand what young people, who are hands-on, find in the market, what they are suggesting and what could be changed.

"But reverse mentoring is not the only method. In the past, I have used other techniques. Two years ago, with an initiative called Chairman's Tea, I met every manager from the group in batches of 10.

"In this session, a mix of managers from different groups and levels and handling different functions would be invited to a one-and-a-half hour tea with me to openly discuss their suggestions and what the group could do to change, whether it was strategy or operations.

"It was a good forum to meet the managers and I learnt a lot. Many of these talks would be taken up for discussions in the group management committee and executive committee.

"Then we had the Young Executive Board (YEB) and the Think-tank. The YEB consists of 10 people who are in their late-twenties and early-thirties.

"They operate in the same way a senior board would and look at important issues in corporate governance, strategy and human resource development and advice the group management committee, which consists of the heads of each business on a quarterly basis.

"This helps in a lot of bottom-up feedback. It also exposes these youngsters to issues that senior executives have to deal with. They get all the information about all the companies in the group.

"The Think-tank consists of seven senior people — general managers, vice presidents from across the group companies and across functions.

"They look at threats and opportunities from new developments to the group as a whole. They also look at issues like technology, new management ideas, new opportunities and so on. All these activities co-exist.

"Seeing the success of Chairman's Tea, I have asked every business head to have a managing director's tea or president's tea in their group companies. So that they meet not only the managers but also the officers, which has been found useful.

"I think the main realisation from all these activities is that bottom-up feedback is extremely important. In India we tend to be top-down.

"While Chairman's Tea gave me a more extensive bottom-up feedback, reverse mentoring gave me intensive bottom-up feedback. Indian businesses are hierarchical. Bottom-up feedback is an important requirement for success.

"However, I feel that seniors should be willing to learn. I spend a lot of time learning in any case. I spend nearly 30 days in a year going to seminars, the World Economic Forum, lectures by experts and so on.

"Learning is something to which I apply myself seriously. If you are not convinced of the improvement that you or your organisation needs, then this process is not recommended.

"And I prefer to use the word "learning" because training is more top-down while learning is interactive. Training assumes that there are some people who are knowledgeable and others who do not know much.

"It's perhaps semantics, but learning is a better process. I feel you also need a sense of confidence to be a good learner. If I were a diffident person, then learning would be difficult. But I knew my IT skills were limited. So I am not embarrassed about asking what might be an obvious question.

"The mentoring experience was extremely good and from what I heard from my mentors, they also found it useful. Unlike Chairman's Tea, which I mandated across the group companies, reverse mentoring is not a process that must be mandated. It should come naturally."


Sagar Unnikrishnan, a 24-year-old management trainee and a computer geek, would often walk past the door sign that read 'CEO', look at it admiringly and move on. Two months into the job, he had yet to be introduced formally to his boss. Last week, much to Unnikrishnan's surprise, he was chosen by his organisation's HR head to mentor his CEO on the new changes in the IT scenario and the expectations of his generation.

This is not a one-off case. Navdeep Manaktala, head, services sales at Nokia, was also asked to mentor his senior, Nikhil Mathur, head of strategy planning and insight, on the company's new service offerings- messaging services, life tools, stores and navigation. "I was delighted to coach somebody from the management. It was a kick in itself," says Manaktala. Mathur says about the experience, "For me, it was an opportunity to ask all kinds of questions without feeling embarrassed, since the basic assumption was that I didn't know (about the offering)."

Mathur decided to undergo the training because he felt that as a senior executive, it was important to understand the services offered by his company from a young consumer's perspective. And what could be better than your junior colleague coaching you? "I spent about an hour-and-a-half with Navdeep, learning stuff that no PowerPoint presentation will ever teach me," says Mathur.


Unilever is one of the world's leading FMCG suppliers with around 174,000 employees in more than 100 countries. Its brands include Knorr, Hellmanns, Bertolli, Dove, Sunsilk, Cif and Marmite. With such a global spread Unilever clearly recognises the importance of worldwide communications and collaboration. It has developed a New Ways of Working vision to get more value out of IT within the company. A part of this, The Hot Chilli Programme focuses on helping senior Executives understand and embrace IT. Chris Winn, Programme Manager, explains: 'It's vital that senior Executives understand the opportunities for applying technology, especially among those working in global and regional teams.' The rationale behind Hot Chilli is that many senior Executives 'miss out on IT' - they don't have the time to embrace the potential benefits and they tend to rely on their support teams to do this. However, these teams might not necessarily identify the possibilities for the Executive and the broader business. Also, by involving the senior levels of management they become role models and ambassadors for new ways of working. The key feature of Hot Chilli is that it uses junior IT managers to coach the senior Executives. This gives upcoming IT talent the opportunity to get involved in a major project, and creates closer links between IT and other business functions. Hot Chilli therefore aims to benefit the business by increasing communication and collaboration, particularly through virtual working and reduced travel; this in turn saves the cost and time of travelling and improves the life balance of employees. It also aims to increase understanding of how technology is being used by other companies and consumers so that the business can respond to these changing behaviours.

Helen Toogood, VP New Ways of Working, developed the Hot Chilli concept more than two years ago when she saw the need to get Unilever's senior Executives - around 100 people - more involved in IT. The Hot Chilli name came about following a brainstorm with some of the digital generation graduates. It represents hot, new ideas and people's caution about being 'burned' by something they may not fully understand. Hot Chilli helps them grasp the concept without getting burned. Toogood did not announce the programme but began by recruiting the Executives and coaches. The approach was low key, making best use of personal contacts to engage individual Executives and gauge their levels of interest. The Hot Chilli coaches are business focused IT Managers who have a passion and enthusiasm for technology. They are volunteers and the time commitment varies - but on average is around half a day per month from each coach. An important part in getting the programme off the ground was getting their line manager's support. Individual IT coaches were gradually linked up with an Executive and they began working together. Later, as Hot Chilli developed, Toogood found that Executives often volunteered themselves.

There are now more than 40 coaches enrolled in Europe and 20 in the US, Canada and Latin America. A pilot has just been completed in Asia/AMET (Singapore) and is soon to roll out further in that region. So far just over half of the senior Executives have been engaged in the programme. Chris Winn adds: "Hot Chilli has entered the language with some Executives now asking if they are to have a Hot Chilli coach. One of our senior executives is also known to say, 'Here's a Hot Chilli Moment' when he is about to try something new in a web conference and isn't quite sure what might happen. That gets everyone's attention!"

The Hot Chilli Programme has made significant progress in helping senior Executives understand and use the latest technologies with real benefits seen in reduced travel and an increase in virtual working. Neil Cameron, Unilever CIO, sums it up: "What we have is reverse mentoring. In the past we have had people who have years of experience on their side to show young people how to work in an organisation. The Hot Chilli Programme is about taking young people who've got experience from the outside bringing it in and helping people to adopt it for value to us. So it is a very interesting model and it is working. I think it was innovative when it started; I think it is still innovative now. It certainly works for

Case V :- RMIT University Library, Bundoora Campus, P.O. Box 71, Bundoora, VIC 3083

This is a journey undertaken by a new graduate librarian and an experienced library technician through a 23-things style Web 2.0 program which was adapted by RMIT University Library for its staff. Through a process of reverse mentoring, the younger graduate librarian acted as the mentor to the experienced library technician, who sought to gain more familiarity and competency in Web 2.0 tools. The commitment, guidance, feedback and enthusiasm of the mentor were key factors in the mentee's decision to commence, persevere with and complete the program.

Originally the aim of the program was for library staff across six library sites to participate in self-paced online learning modules about Web 2.0 tools, such as Blogs, Wikis and RSS. They were also asked to consider their possible application to libraries, and to complete set exercises by posting to their own created blog. Site champions with requisite knowledge and skills encouraged and monitored staff progress throughout.

The mentee was one of a number of staff who was unable to complete the program during the designated time-frame, but she was still enthusiastic to gain the skills. The reverse mentoring arrangement was established to meet the individual need and to explore the effectiveness of a new way of thinking and working whilst supporting her in gaining Web 2.0 skills. The initial expectations and opportunities this process presented, from both the mentor and mentee's perspectives are outlined. Whether these were met, unexpected outcomes, and what was learnt throughout the process, about the subject, ourselves, each other and mentoring relationships is discussed. The approach and the benefits for colleagues and clients are evaluated, with practical recommendations given on how others can apply the reverse mentoring technique.

Daniel was a "champion" of the program at the RMIT Bundoora campus library, where he and Robyn both work. Robyn was very keen to participate, and did take the first steps towards completing the process, by doing the initial background reading, setting up a blog (Phillips [2008]) and writing her first blog post. However, she soon realised that due to other commitments, she would not finish her journey alongside the other staff, so approached Daniel about supporting her through the program from the beginning of 2009 to which he agreed.

When a professional development group within the Library was formed, they both attended, and were encouraged to explore the possibility of writing and presenting a conference paper. They saw how the relationship they would soon be forming to meet Robyn's desire of gaining knowledge and skills in Web 2.0 was a type of mentoring relationship reversed. They considered that the experiences we would have, the challenges and opportunities it would bring, may therefore be of interest to others in the profession generally; not only in terms of its usefulness in helping to develop Web 2.0 competencies, but also in the broader sense of helping to build or strengthen professional relationships between younger employees and their older colleagues. For library technicians in particular, we also knew that age was not the only distinction that would be made about the relationship. Both of them had different pathways into the profession, one a librarian and the other a technician. Although they did not see it as the major point of difference between us, and it is not particularly an issue in this case, there experience may encourage technicians to seek out more mutually beneficial relationships with librarians.

The most positive outcome for us was that Web 2.0 was a catalyst for the strengthening of our professional relationship underpinned by deeper levels of honesty, trust, and respect for each other. We shared and exchanged much more than we previously would have before this experience. We have both commented on how much more comfortable, we are with each other as a result of this and have made new discoveries about each other's interests. During the program we learnt how surprisingly similar we are in way we think. This has been an added benefit since the professional relationship continues after the program has finished.


Analyzing the above cases we can get the following Key Points:-

  • The "strategic window": The occasion to launch the initiative must be rooted in the actual strategy and business of the company. This creates attention, acceptance and willingness to support and join.
  • The professional and diligent selection of the mentors: They have, of course, the most important role. Decisive criteria are: outstanding expertise and intensive experience in the area; good communication skills; openness and curiosity; absolute discretion.
  • A clear and structured agenda and documentation for the sessions: it gives the mentors confidence in what they should do; it allows exchange of experience among the mentors and the opportunity for continuous improvement and advancement.
  • Strong role models and active supporters to quickly reach high visibility and acceptance of the initiative. To have mentees at the top-level is of great help to market the initiative and to acquire highly qualified mentors "in the second wave".
  • Mutual benefit: The benefits for the managers involved are obvious. But one must not underestimate the benefits for the young employees: They achieve higher general visibility in the company and can build strong relationships to top managers in their company - a basis to build their further career on.
  • Discipline in organizing the initiative: From a certain size on, reverse mentoring is a fulltime job for a project manager: to market and promote the program, to contact interested mentees, to continuously acquire new mentors and take care of their training, to manage the small "crises" in mentor-mentee relationships that are not immediately 100% successful. This workload should not be neglected.
  • Well managed, a reverse mentoring initiative brings internal and external attention and reputation: to HR and its learning function for their innovative approach; to the management for their personal commitment to continuous, life-long learning; to the company for its open and forward-looking learning culture.



Seniors or Mentees "The reverse mentoring sessions are extra-ordinarily valuable. They have made us a better leader and more in touch with today's workplace" says a senior executive from GE.


  • Improves decision making as it brings a lot of associated inputs in terms of feeling of employees, new development around the industry, best practices etc. and create more tightly knit relationship with juniors. So it serves as an element of Decision Support System.
  • Reverse mentoring helps senior executives learn new areas as computers, technology, culture and other highly focused technical areas.
  • Senior employees learn new skills and competencies that boost their job performance and motivate them to work better.
  • It is a part of natural evolution of learning as business in the digital age requires more than a pulse and a briefcase.

Subordinates or Mentors "Having a direct line of communication with the senior executive is invaluable" which is the most important feature of this relationship.

  • It opens a direct opportunity to gain a great deal of confidence.
  • It helps in gaining insights and wisdom that could otherwise take years to obtain.
  • It is a tool for opening the channels of communication and knowledge sharing.
  • It helps junior employees face critical situations along with the seniors which otherwise would have not faced being young & junior. There is no substitute to experience. The young ones greatly benefit from the treasure of experience of seniors and their calm and poise.


Reverse mentoring is very beneficial for organizations whether it is done formally or informally. It attracts the many possible gains-

  • Increased level of expertise and productivity by providing assistance, guidance & informal skill for the mentees.
  • Reduced turnover and Increase in Loyalty.
  • 1-to-1 relationship acquired helps foster a feeling of caring and support through testing times.
  • Development of managerial talent. A young employee can provide skills and knowledge about new technologies which normally would not be provided to the mentee or if provided it would be very expensive and time consuming.
  • Increase the mentor's skill of communication, problem solving and resource management which could be beneficial to the organization in the long run.
  • Saves time and money spent on training activities.
  • Helps seniors to understand the aspirations and feeling of young ones and culture fitness in the organization. It proves beneficial in many staffing decisions such as hiring, induction, training, placement etc.
  • It also facilitates resourcing the energy and enthusiasm of the young ones in the organization and having perfect fusion of their individual goals with those of the organization's.


Setting up a successful Reverse Mentoring program requires a great deal of effort and planning. Without a solid foundation, it is likely to encounter more than a few bumps and participants are likely to receive plenty of mental bruises. As the relationship involved is a very delicate one.

Five Step Reverse Mentoring program-

  1. Developing a structured program: Either, assign mentoring pairs or, let participants find mentors/mentees they feel they will be comfortable with. What's important is to develop a set of goals, objectives and ground rules.
  2. Make the program a priority: Participants must understand the importance of a reverse mentoring program and block time which mentors & mentees would spend with each other so that seniors do not miss those sessions due to their busy schedule.
  3. Screen the members: Being young doesn't automatically make a person an authority on what's "COOL". Mentors must have patience and temperament to work with senior executives as the seniors may be reluctant to open up with someone so junior.
  4. Provide proper training: Mentor must learn what's important and how to show patience and the mentee has to check his or her ego at the door, otherwise the whole reverse mentoring program may fall.
  5. Solicit feedback and make necessary changes: Reverse mentoring can require CORRECTION. By surveying participants it's possible to identify strengths and weaknesses and make the adjustment necessary to achieve success.

What is Required for Successful Reverse Mentoring

Both, the mentor and the mentee, must have certain qualities and attributes. Both the parties have their share of responsibilities which when fulfilled can make a reverse mentoring program successful. Following are the must have qualities for a mentor and his partner in a Reverse Mentoring Program:-


  • Listen and Understand
  • Challenge and Stimulate learning
  • Teach by example
  • Introduce to new technologies
  • Patient
  • Restricted advice


  • Listen
  • Act on advice
  • Show commitment
  • Ask for feedback
  • Open-minded
  • Willing to change
  • Act pro-actively

By developing these qualities the success of the reverse mentoring program can be ensured. But it requires a lot of motivation as both the parties must understand the importance of implementing this program.

Junior executives must understand that senior executives are much more wise and experienced and this program should maintain the ego of the senior executives intact.

Most Important Key for Successful Implementation of Reverse Mentoring

It includes:-

  • Training the mentor to be patient and restricting his or her advice to relevant topics only.
  • Privacy and confidentiality are also important for senior's who don't wish to be seen as depending on the TIPS from the employees with less experience.

Limitations of Reverse Mentoring

"The idea of reverse mentoring is good, but should be used Judiciously"

  • Senior executives may not like taking advice from executives who are juniors to them.
  • It is not present formally, therefore, little Reverse Mentoring is found in organizations.
  • Reverse Mentoring programs may wither if they lack clear and adequate goals.
  • If not handled properly it can ruin the work atmosphere and discipline in the organization


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