Shining the Light on Reverse Mentoring

By Deanna Bonaparte

A mentorship scheme is extremely beneficial in the workplace especially for the uninitiated. New employees are better able to assimilate new information and excel in their jobs with the guidance of experienced mentors who are familiar with company goals and the industry.

As a new employee, being assigned a mentor to guide you through your new responsibilities can also help to quell your anxiety and smoothen the daunting process of picking things up quickly. But the onus to learn is not only on new employees and fresh graduates. Learning, regardless of your length of employment, is a lifelong process of keeping abreast with changes and new developments. Experienced senior employees have to strive to seek continual improvement, and one of the many ways to upgrade themselves is through the exercise of reverse mentoring.

A Two-Way Street

Reverse mentoring – as its name suggests – is not merely the transfer of knowledge from junior to senior employee. It is the exchange of knowledge between both parties, resulting in an up-to-date and a more informed community of employees. For instance, junior employees can gain industry insights and learn how to understand trends and historical data from senior employees. On the other hand, senior employees have much to benefit when they learn from junior employees about technology and social media and marketing. This two-way learning opportunity thus shrinks the knowledge gap between junior and senior employees and makes for a more collaborative organisation.

Making it Work

In order to maximise the benefits of a reverse mentorship scheme, each party has to act in the capacity of both a mentor and a mentee. This requires both parties to make the concerted effort to understand each other’s perspectives and be familiar with each other’s communication style. It is also important to sustain the effectiveness of a mentorship scheme by constantly finding ways to add value to the relationship. For instance, a junior employee can help to update a media veteran’s digital profile in exchange for his/her word of advice about how to improve doing it.

Between an Employer and a Direct Employee

Employers do not have to be bound by a scheme to mentor and be mentored. If your organisation has not implemented such a reverse mentorship scheme, the steps you (as an employer) can take towards nurturing a more engaged pool of employees include receiving feedback from your employees regarding new initiatives or getting them more involved in decision-making processes. This may not be a mentoring effort per se but it is a good way for employers and senior employees to listen to fresh ideas from the younger generation, and for greenhorn to engage with and learn from veteran employees.

In addition, a mentoring session need not be confined to a formal office setting. Employees would feel more comfortable with committing themselves to the company for a long term if they share a bond with their mentors cum employers. Thus, employers should take the effort to strengthen the mentor-mentee relationship, perhaps by bringing their mentees out for coffee or striking a date off the calendar for a friendly tennis match. A reverse mentorship scheme is thus not only a learning and developmental opportunity for senior and junior employees alike – it is also a contributor to engaging and thereby retaining your best talent.

Has your organisation implemented a reverse mentorship scheme? What are your thoughts about it? Share with us in the comment box below!

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