ITN uses reverse mentoring to motivate and engage younger employees

ITN reverse mentoring

A large proportion of Independent Television News’ (ITN) 750 permanent employees are in the 20 to 35-year-old bracket. While this has many benefits, the increasing likelihood that younger employees will see remaining in a role as an active choice, rather than a natural instinct, poses challenges when it comes to retention.

Priscilla Baffour, diversity and inclusion manager at ITN, explains: “We have to work even harder to have an inclusive culture, because [employees] will just leave if they’re not happy with the culture.”

The challenge, therefore, is to ensure that employees feel valued and motivated as early as possible. To do this, ITN focuses on training, development and mentoring. Most recently, this has taken the form of a reverse mentoring programme, focusing specifically on employees from diverse backgrounds; the pilot for this began in May 2018.

The application process began in April, with an email to all staff, and was open until 17 May 2018. Employees wishing to be mentors filled out a form stating what they hoped to bring to and gain from the programme, and where they felt their career was going. The applicants were then shortlisted based on their skills, experiences, interests and personalities, and matched with executive mentees, all of which took a further three weeks.

The mentors are expected to conduct a minimum of one meeting per month, for a period of six months. From the beginning, it was made clear that the impetus is with the mentor to organise the sessions. Baffour notes that, for entry-level employees, the very act of taking the lead with an executive is an engaging challenge.

At the end of the six months, the mentors and mentees will come together to share their experiences with each other and the organisation.

“Already [we] can see the empowerment for the mentors,” says Baffour. “Both mentors and mentees are learning new approaches to things. [Mentors have] enhanced leadership skills and are challenging their own knowledge. On the diversity side, it has definitely been an eye-opener for the mentees.”

The reverse mentoring programme allows for a rare pipeline between potential job-hoppers and executives, giving them a chance to see ITN’s inner workings, build confidence in their own progression within the organisation long-term, and feel engaged and motivated.

“We see it as a two-way process, where both the mentor and the mentee hopefully come away with a fresh insight into each other’s lives,” says Baffour. “The mutual benefit is that a lot of people at entry-level or mid-career don’t understand the challenges for the executive team. It’s definitely an opportunity for them to understand different routes into the industry.”

In reality, no retention strategy is perfect, and employees will still move on; nevertheless, Baffour makes it clear that the reverse mentoring scheme is still important, both for getting the best out of individuals during their time with the organisation, and in a wider sense.

“The scheme identifies and develops high potential staff from diverse backgrounds, which will in turn help us to improve retention and progression,” she says. “But I just think everyone should have a mentor, no matter where [they] are. So, even if they move along, it improves the industry.”