Reverse Mentoring – DHSC Case Study

One of the five key themes of the 2017-2018 DHSC Diversity and Inclusion Strategy was to build diversity capability and confidence across the workforce to ensure DHSC became a trusted, diverse organisation where people are proud to work and leaders are inclusive by instinct. DHSC’s Executive Committee identified that a Reverse Mentoring scheme would be beneficial to this aim.

Lee McDonough, Director General, Acute Care and Workforce Group and Barry Mussenden, a member of the SCS and Chair of the Equality Matters network were aware of the role which the team behind Perfect Symbiosis had played in delivering a successful Reverse Mentoring scheme for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and asked Perfect Symbiosis to help set up a similar scheme for DHSC.

It was agreed that the initial phase should be aimed at the top senior civil servants (Permanent Secretary and Directors General) but with up to eight extra trained to allow for good matches between reverse mentors and mentees and for future potential growth of the scheme. DHSC Directors were informed:

“As part of our commitment to building a more diverse and inclusive Department and being a Great Place to Work we are introducing a reverse mentoring scheme where senior leaders take on the unfamiliar role of being mentored by less senior colleagues from diverse backgrounds.

This approach has been adopted elsewhere in Whitehall – including by John Manzoni – and has proven to be beneficial for the mentee, the mentor and the wider organisation.

The DH scheme has been developed by our HR Diversity & Inclusion lead, working in partnership with the Equality Matters Network and other staff diversity networks and with the help of an external partner, ‘Perfect Symbiosis’, who have experience of running similar schemes in other government departments”.

Perfect Symbiosis provided planning and development of training sessions, system set up, training for those interested, capture, recording and analysis of information for those trained to identify suitability, matching reverse mentors to mentees, supporting communications material, awareness raising sessions, telephone support and advice for reverse mentors and to HR.

Following the completion of training of 17 Reverse Mentors in November 2017, all 17 were matched and the reverse mentoring sessions began.  Perfect Symbiosis arranged and facilitated monthly informal lunchtime sessions for reverse mentors to help them share good practice and build confidence, with the notes from these sessions being shared with those administering the scheme within DHSC to help it continually improve.  

On 6 September 2018 the DHSC Executive Committee received a presentation on the initial implementation of the scheme and agreed with the recommendation to continue and expand the Reverse Mentoring Scheme.

As a result of this decision, Perfect Symbiosis trained a further 20 reverse mentors and matched them.  During this second phase, Perfect Symbiosis worked alongside DHSC’s Diversity and Inclusion team to involve them in delivering some of the training and the matching process.  By June 2019 phase 2 had been completed and DHSC’s Diversity and Inclusion team was confident that it could administer the scheme and continue to deliver the training needed to enable it to grow and prosper.