Reverse mentoring; the secret ingredient to growing inclusive leadership behaviour?

Date : 21 September 2023

Reverse Mentoring is a culture changing, first of its kind programme pairing senior leaders with individuals from underrepresented groups in the UK food and drink industries. Following a series of 3 conversational sessions over a 3 month period, leaders feel informed and inspired by their mentor to create more inclusive workplaces where all can thrive.

A survey, recently taken by 50 of the programme’s delegates showed that 87% of the senior leaders asked, said that they had improved their knowledge of diversity and inclusion as a result of the process, with 80% identifying opportunities to take back into their business.

One senior leader said:

“We have activated mandatory senior leadership training and all of my top 20 leaders are now on [internal] reverse mentoring.”

But taking part is just the start of the journey. Taking action is crucial, and the real difference begins when we become ambassadors and spread the reach of our influence, creating an inclusive industry, where everyone is heard, safe and valued.

Another respondent explained that their influence was company-wide and estimated 60,000 colleagues would benefit from the shared learning and knowledge. The results showed that those in the C-suite or higher level leadership positions have a wider and more influential impact, and were able to create change at scale and at pace.

A key theme arising from the survey is the importance of self-awareness, with 90% of respondents agreeing that the programme provided a meaningful opportunity for self-reflection.

“Reflection is the critical element of my learning, helping me to understand where I am now and where I want to be. Continuing to communicate my intent around being inclusive and building inclusive teams.”

Mentee, 2022

The delegates surveyed were asked how they are currently measuring the success. Their answers provided an indication of some of the initiatives that could be adopted as examples of best practice and adapted within our own businesses. The top 10 themes were:

  1. Development plans/personal development reviews
  2. Feedback sessions
  3. Maintaining the reverse mentoring partnership
  4. Colleague engagement
  5. Staff survey
  6. Increase in diversity in senior positions
  7. Starting to collect diversity data
  8. Including I&D in business objectives and KPIs
  9. Aiming to achieve B Corp or other external certification
  10. More reverse mentoring!

This survey completed between 2021 and 2022, aimed to, in part, evaluate how effectively Reverse Mentoring empowers senior leaders to create inclusive workplaces. This cannot be achieved overnight.

However, it is clear that the increased knowledge, awareness of opportunities and space for self-reflection offered by Reverse Mentoring, significantly contributes to the vital step-change towards inclusive and diverse workplaces where everyone can thrive.

Find out more about the programme and the tools IGD have to support your inclusive journey, or contact Amie Burke on [email protected]