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Bridging Gaps

Not all wisdom comes with age.

​Jérémie Berthon was 5 years old when Dave Hattem started working for AXA Equitable Life Insurance Co. about 25 years ago. Both men are veterans of the global insurance company's structured reverse mentoring program. Although the formal pairing between Berthon, a multimedia and communications specialist, and Hattem, the company's general counsel, ended, their collegial relationship continued.

Candid Conversations

For the reverse mentoring program, Berthon prepared an agenda for Hattem that covered how to use software applications, social media and other technology.

Since Berthon is French, the two talked about tools that French businesses use, and Berthon took the initiative to tailor the sessions to Hattem's personal interests. For example, he introduced him to an app about art galleries.

As the relationship developed, Hattem also got feedback about how executives relate to staff and how new initiatives were resonating with employees.

"It was terrific to meet with someone from a different part of the organization, [at] a different stage of his career," Hattem says.

Two-Way Street

Berthon got plenty out of the relationship as well, such as Hattem's perspective on the business, institutional knowledge and exposure to senior leadership.

The program has become more relevant as technology has changed how the company interacts with customers and how colleagues interact with each other, Berthon says.

"Jérémie can help keep me fresh on some of these issues," Hattem says, "and we can continue having conversations about what the organization is doing and how we can do it better."

To read more about reverse and reciprocal mentoring, see Knowledge Is Best Shared from SHRM's All Things Work newsletter.

Tamara Lytle is a freelance writer in the Washington, D.C., area.


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