Employee Mentoring Benefits from Trust

male employees shaking hands
Topic(s): learning, mentoring
Publication: Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies (2011)
Article: Trust as a moderator of the relationship between mentoring and knowledge transfer
Authors: M.M. Fleig-Palmer, F.D. Schoorman
Reviewed by: Alexandra Rechlin

Employee mentoring is widely considered to be an effective way of transferring knowledge and skills, as well as providing other benefits to employees, but is it really effective? Further, does the protégé’s trust in the mentor affect how much the protégé learns? Researchers (Fleig-Palmer & Schoorman, 2011) conducted a survey in a health care organization to answer these questions.


Protégés rated their mentors on different mentoring functions, but the authors were interested in the extent to which the mentor provided informational functions (i.e., sponsorship, exposure and visibility, employee coaching, and challenging assignments) to the protégé. Protégés reported having acquired more new knowledge and skills when they rated their mentor higher on this informational mentoring variable.

The authors also found that the protégé’s trust in the mentor had a positive effect on the reported knowledge transfer, with protégés learning more when they trusted their mentors more. There was a significant interaction between the extent of mentoring and the amount of trust in the mentor on knowledge transfer, but the relationship was complicated and needs to be further studied. The authors found that trust made more of a difference in knowledge transfer when mentoring was low than when it was high.


These results suggest that more knowledge transfer occurs when the protégé receives more mentoring. They also suggest that trust is important to knowledge transfer, so building the protégé’s trust in the mentor will be beneficial when trying to increase knowledge transfer in a mentoring relationship.

Fleig-Palmer, M. M., & Schoorman, F. D. (2011). Trust as a moderator of the relationship between mentoring and knowledge transfer. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 18(3)334-343.