Posted on Aug 5 2020 by Jo Lehmann

Our new reverse mentoring scheme

As featured in this week's HR magazine, St Andrew’s Healthcare has introduced a new reverse mentoring initiative aimed at raising awareness and understanding about the barriers and challenges faced by our Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff in the workplace and ultimately break down inequalities.

Around a quarter of staff at St Andrew’s are BAME, compared to the national average of 12.5%. The idea of the scheme is to build awareness about unconscious bias, and to help shape thinking, policy and strategy, embrace diversity and to build understanding of the experiences and perspectives of our BAME staff. It also allows some of the organisation’s younger BAME staff to have a direct voice to the top of the organization.

Donna Walker, Learning and Development Manager at St Andrew’s said:

“We worked collaboratively with the BAME group to seek ideas about the best way to set up the reverse mentoring scheme, and what the aims and purpose of the scheme would be.”

“As well as fostering an environment of growth and learning, building an inclusive culture and supporting our Diversity & Inclusion Strategy, this initiative has helped break down stereotypes, and assumptions, as well as identify and challenge any unconscious bias, entrenched views and misconceptions that accompany them.”

There are currently five reverse mentors across the organization, from all levels of nursing and some allied health professionals, including Healthcare Assistants and Staff Nurses. Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Jess Lievesley, and Senior Staff Nurse, Austin Omotoso, are one of those pairs. Austin and Jess have enjoyed the opportunity to job shadow each other, including Austin attending some meetings with Jess, seeing high level decision-making in process.

Austin Omotoso, Senior Staff Nurse at St Andrew’s said:

“I feel listened to, and the experience has helped build my confidence. The process has changed my perception that the leadership was aloof, and I now know I can access the leadership team if necessary. This is not just a tick box exercise, but I can see that it is truly inspiring and will have a positive impact on BAME staff members.”

Jess Lievesley, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of St Andrew’s said:

“Hearing Austin’s experiences, and how he and his family have had to adapt following their move to the UK, his desire to succeed and recognising the challenges that he has overcome to achieve many of the things in my life that I have taken for granted, has been really insightful.”

“Austin’s experience has challenged me to realise that just being ‘anti’ racism and discrimination isn’t actually enough - you have to be pro-equality of experience and opportunity at every level.”

“I know that Austin will keep me thinking differently about how colleagues of colour are not always able to experience opportunities in the way I and others do because of the other influences life and history, of which I am not now and never will be an expert.”

As well as the reverse mentoring scheme St Andrew’s also has an active BAME Network which offers peer support and networking opportunities. The network is open to individuals who identify as BAME, but also allies and people interested in raising awareness of the issues that BAME people face. The Network has a calendar of events throughout the year, tailored to the needs and tastes of members of our BAME community.