Cultivating a learning culture: Introduction to reverse mentoringBrenda Barnard
Good company culture is the holy grail that many companies aspire to have and the thing that prospective employees seek. Undoubtedly, organisations have shifted towards becoming more employee-centric and use these benefits to drive value for their clients. This raises the question: how can leadership better understand what employees truly desire to build a more employee-centric organisation?
Creating such an organisational change requires both knowledge sharing and collaboration as an integral part of culture shaping, but how can organisations best facilitate sharing employees' experiences, opinions, and values with those who hold decision-making responsibilities?
To incorporate these voices within Credera, a reverse mentoring scheme was recommended by the Shadow Board - a diverse group of junior employees committed to bringing the thoughts and perspectives of Credera employees to the board.
This blog is the first in a multi-part series and outlines the benefits of reverse mentoring and its impact on Credera’s Management Board.
What is reverse mentoring?
Reverse mentoring is the process by which the traditional roles of mentee and mentor are switched. Rather than having the mentor be the more senior and experienced individual, they become the mentee. The more junior employee then becomes the mentor, sharing their rich experiences in an effort to build human relationships, trust, and empathy. Mentors bring their perspectives to problems that the mentee is faced with. The mentee can then reflect, build understanding, and bring that to their teams and into their decision-making process. For this to succeed, the programme’s foundation must be built on trust.
Credera’s reverse mentoring programme was launched by the Shadow Board in November 2022 – with each mentor-mentee pair having established a schedule that suits them and any goals they would like to achieve through the programme.
What are the benefits of a reverse mentoring scheme?
A reverse mentoring scheme holds a number of different benefits - these include but are not limited to:
- Diversity and Inclusion: Surrounding yourself with people from different backgrounds and walks of life provides the mentee with perspectives they may not have previously considered or understood. It can be a valuable tool for personal development, helping to challenge stereotypes and ignorance. This is arguably one of the most valuable aspects of reverse mentoring.
- Fosters innovation and creativity: Reverse mentoring gives employees a platform to share their ideas, thoughts, and opinions – where previously they may not have had the opportunity to do so. The mentee is offered a fresh perspective on their problems, objectives, and business goals.
- Sharing/developing skills and knowledge: Both mentor and mentee will be able to share knowledge on topics that the other knows little about – be that a new technology, or the ins and outs of business.
- Employee engagement: When senior decision-makers are open to being mentored by more junior employees, employees feel like they are a part of the firm and have input into the development of the firm. It indicates to the employees that the leadership team is conscious and striving towards empathetic decision-making.
- Cross-functional collaboration: It is often the case that business functions do not overlap and interact. Reverse mentoring can be cross-functional – opening communication pathways that wouldn’t organically exist.
Reflecting on these past few months, we would like to share some feedback and achievements from members of our Management Board, what they have learned from their respective mentors, and what they have found particularly valuable about the scheme.
Chris Dean – CEO, Credera UK
“I have found my reverse mentoring sessions very valuable with Brenda, my Shadow Board mentor. It has been a refreshingly novel experience to invert the usual hierarchical structures and understand the perspectives of a representative of a group that I typically don’t get a chance to interact with enough. We have made our mentoring sessions ‘two-way’ and have covered subjects like personal style, internal communications, approaches to continuous learning, etc. I’d like to think it has helped us both to better understand each other’s perspective and make some constructive suggestions.”
Marius Rubin – Chief Technology Officer, Credera UK
“After a few sessions of reverse mentoring, here are some things I have enjoyed and found valuable:
- Being intentional in assigning time to discussing different perspectives: This has become particularly relevant as the nature of my role has involved working more closely with board/seniors over time, and less time has been spent working in the thick of delivery with colleagues at all stages of their careers.
- Building a new trusting relationship: I’m gaining insight into things that would not necessarily emerge through the management chain and I am sure this will develop further.
- Having an external source of challenge which is translating into action: Either in terms of what initiatives feed into the leadership team, or in terms of personal learning and development (e.g. reading a book I would not have read otherwise).”
Helen Kilvington – Chief People Officer, Credera UK
“I am a big supporter of Shadow Board and the reverse mentoring sessions offered another fantastic opportunity for the Board. From the outset, we both agreed to be transparent, honest, and upfront with each other, as well as compassionate. The reverse mentoring sessions have enabled me to probe further than I may otherwise have had the opportunity to do in normal circumstances. They allow me to discuss some issues in a safe space and hear ideas or responses that I wouldn’t normally get access to, as well as allowing my mentor to get closer to the logic and rationale for decision-making from me and the Board. Most of all, reverse mentoring is fun, sessions are informal, and it provides the time to take a walk or grab a coffee see things from a new perspective.”
Sam Pugh – Chief of Staff, Credera UK
“I’ve found it really helpful to use my reverse mentoring sessions to dial up my understanding and appreciation of those from a different generation. In both my work and my personal life, I have a plethora of folk I interact with across virtually all generations. However, the people I’m least exposed to are those aged 20-30, and I’m conscious this is a “diversity gap” for me in terms of being able to understand, and potentially connect with, people across our own organisation. Being able to chat about this openly and freely and to start exploring the perspectives of younger millennials as well as Gen Z has been really valuable. I have also really enjoyed the opportunity to get to know someone on a more personal level that I have worked with for many years and for whom I now have newfound levels of respect, having learnt more about who he is outside of work as well as inside Credera.”
Simon Greenhalgh – Chief Financial & Operations Officer, Credera UK
“Credera has an incredible people-first culture, which is part of the DNA of the business. Part of this culture relies on the openness for everyone to share and discuss thoughts and ideas on any topic. As we grow, this is something we must be more intentional about to ensure that that openness across the business remains. The part of reverse mentoring that I’ve really valued is the structured sessions to offer a broader perspective – something that helps shape both the strategic direction of the firm, as well as the practical operational implementation. Having a bi-directional sounding board for thoughts and ideas means that as a team we make better decisions and build something to be proud of with the future generations of business leaders.”
Daniel Webb – Chief Delivery Officer, Credera UK
“I’ve really enjoyed my time with my reverse mentor. I’ve been surprised by how deep our conversations have gone, with some great challenges and fresh points of view I would never have considered otherwise. As well as making a new friend, it has helped me test how ideas might land, see different points of view, and understand parts of the business I have never worked in. I have no question it’s helped me become a more effective leader in our organisation and I’m looking forward to continuing to build our relationship. “
Donal Smith – Chief Client Officer, Credera UK
"I am sincerely grateful for the thoughtfulness and diligence Reni, my Shadow Board mentor, has provided throughout our reverse mentoring partnership. I don't mind admitting that I initially had reservations about the potential value of this experience, but Reni has proven beyond a doubt the value and impact such collaborations can have.
She has created a safe space where I feel comfortable sharing my thoughts, ideas, and concerns. Her open-mindedness and respect for our different perspectives and roles has allowed for non-judgemental, constructive conversations that have broadened my horizons and challenged my preconceptions.
I can point to at least two successful initiatives that I have implemented as a direct consequence of the discussions we have had over the past few months. I am excited to see the continued positive impact we can make together on our organisation."
What’s next for Credera’s reverse mentoring scheme?
Credera has remained committed to its employee experience, with reverse mentoring being one of the many initiatives that have been introduced in an effort to improve continuously. The programme is set to continue, with plans to rotate the mentor-mentee pairs as the Shadow Board members rotate – helping to provide fresh perspectives and experiences to the Board.
Our next blog will feature stories from our mentors and how their experiences influenced their own journeys. We will further explore how organisations can successfully set up their own reverse mentoring scheme in a future article.
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