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Reverse mentoring scheme gives senior leaders fresh perspectives

Mentors are typically the more experienced among us who can counsel, guide and advise the next generation. But sometimes, it’s good to turn ideas on their head.

When we launched our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) action plan back in 2017, we wanted to support retention and progression across the firm. One of the most successful ways of doing this has been our reverse mentoring programme, which was piloted in 2018.

Our group of 30 mentors comprised women and those from BAME backgrounds. All mentors were junior staff, paired with senior-leader mentees. Designed to give mentors an opportunity to share insights and experiences, the initiative also offered mentees a fresh perspective on the firm’s business, strategy and culture.

A trusted adviser

Lerato Marema is from our Real Estate Planning and Development team in Manchester. She has been at the firm for two years and was among the first to sign up to the programme.

“When I saw an email asking for volunteers to take part in reverse mentoring I knew I wanted to be involved,” said Lerato. “I thought this would be a great opportunity to understand what the firm and its leadership were doing to hit their ethnicity and gender diversity targets. I also wanted to better understand the challenges they faced.”

Her mentee was Rick Lester, a senior partner in our Risk Advisory practice in London. The pair met monthly and covered a range of issues including respect and inclusion at work, recruiting and retaining BAME people and the importance of resilience.

“I really enjoyed being able to give my personal perspective on what can hold women back in the workplace, and in particular BAME women,” continued Lerato. “It could be something as simple as not getting the recognition you deserve because of your age or gender, or just comments in a meeting that make you feel uncomfortable.”

The programme has been a huge eye-opener. “I’ve loved having honest conversations with such a senior leader in the firm and giving my views on how to progress and retain young female talent,” she added. “It has given me a greater sense of empowerment and helped my confidence – both of which will support me in my own career progression.”

Partner Rick thought it was a worthwhile experience and he felt he gained from the regular insights Lerato shared, saying: “She has given me real food for thought on how we can improve the likelihood of hitting our ethnicity and gender diversity targets.”

Positive impact

Feedback shows this was a valuable and insightful experience, with all mentors committing to keeping in touch with their mentee. For many, it will continue to have a positive impact as almost half have been promoted since the pilot began.

Our mentors and mentees have helped make this one of our most powerful initiatives yet and, for 2019, we’ve been able to double the size of the programme and extended it to include LGBT+ employees. Hopefully, this means double the impact.

“The programme has given me a greater sense of empowerment and helped my confidence – both of which will support me in my career progression.”

Lerato Marema, mentor

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