Page 72 - Bridging & Commercial Magazine Issue 5
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                              programmes            BAME reverse mentoring Groothaert, CEO at Fiduciam. “Those applicants are then interviewed by employees of both genders and of different backgrounds. This ensures the best candidates emerge at the end of the process, irrespective of gender or culture.” This intentionally helps to break any subconscious bias that may influence its recruitment so that it always employs the best person for the job. Once in the firm, people of all nationalities, genders and levels deliver input to decisions. Johan adds that the strategy’s success is shown by the fact that 63% of Fiduciam’s revenues so far this year have been brought in by its female staff. Inverting the typical mentoring relationship, this programme sets up less experienced black and minority ethnic (BAME) colleagues to mentor more experienced, senior staff. The initiative is about creating a forum for senior people to hear and learn from junior colleagues. Paired mentors and mentees meet four to six times each year, and are encouraged to have frank conversations and share their views about the workplace in a confidential setting. Jennifer Mbaluto, partner at Clifford Chance, mentored one of the firm’s most senior partners when she was a senior associate. “The best thing about the programme for me is that it provided the opportunity to connect with my mentee on a human level. Learning that we had more in common than we might have expected helped bridge the ‘seniority gap’, allowing Returnships us to explore a wide range of issues from day-to-day challenges to more complex issues in a safe and relaxed environment.” Jennifer got promoted to partner in May this year. Many participating senior colleagues have said that the programme is an eye opener. Matthew Newick, global practice area leader for litigation and dispute resolution at Clifford Chance, has been a senior mentee in the programme. “I’ve been blown away by the force of reverse mentoring. As a middle-aged white man who is well-meaning but nervous in this area, reverse mentoring gave me a safe environment to ask stupid questions and give candid reactions. It has given me the confidence to engage more openly and routinely with issues that need airing, but can seem daunting. It has given me ideas about how to accelerate the pace of progress in the firm.” Returnships are designed to support employees returning to work after maternity and adoption leave, absences related to long-term illness, and career breaks. The staged programme facilitates support conversations before, during and after the proposed leave period and offers flexible working as an opportunity to support an employee’s return to the workplace. As workers transition back into their roles, they are guided by mentor support and given a structured development plan for participants to update required skills, where relevant. Lyn Nicholls, human resources director at Ageas, says that its scheme began in April of this year. “Our returnship programme provides practical support to help employees transition back into the workplace. It offers support, guidance, flexibility and an opportunity for a mentor to support employees in those vital first weeks. Although it’s early days, the initiative has been well received, with the mentor support and self-reflection journal being particularly welcome. We know that returning to work after a period of time away can be daunting for employees and support around this time is critical in helping people settle back into their role.” Equalised parental leave Aviva Investors believes that unconscious hiring and promotional bias is inevitable in any system that treats men and women differently, such as when they become parents. Acknowledging that parenting is of equal importance regardless of gender, the global asset management business’s paternity leave programme offers equal amounts of paid and unpaid parental leave and flexible working options upon returning, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or how the employee became a parent. The entitlement is offered to all full- and part-time staff, with no minimum length of service or qualifying earning threshold. According to an Aviva Investors spokesperson, the policy has driven many unforeseen positives. “We have seen teams galvanised and individuals given fresh opportunities as they step up to support a greater mix Job post wording of individuals on leave. The policy is regularly cited as a key draw by fresh talent joining our organisation at all levels, from graduate up.” The way a recruitment advert is worded can put some women off applying for roles. The use of so-called masculine coded words, such as competitive, decisive and ambitious can bias the response to an advert. Examples of more feminine language inclined to draw more gender diverse talent are: interpersonal, co-operative, collaborative, inclusive, loyalty and supportive. Clare Jupp, director of people development at the Brightstar Group, explains the process it goes through before posting a role. “As well as running the advert through the online tool that analyses the linguistic coding, it may also be worth adding a footer that states applicants do not need to meet all criteria and should feel encouraged to apply.” Clare says finding the right cultural fit is often more important than getting an applicant whose CV best matches the criteria. Mental health first-aiders programme Starting school leave benefit In the same way that a physical first aider might function in a workplace environment, mental health first aiders are trained to provide support and guidance for other colleagues who may be experiencing mental health challenges while at work. First aiders also provide signposting to other sources of support available. “The work we’ve undertaken around mental health and wellbeing supports our culture and enables colleagues with a Financial technology company IRESS introduced the starting school leave benefit to support employees with children. Providing up to eight-and- a-half additional paid days off work during a child’s first school term, the programme enables them to be present for key moments in their children’s lives. “Children starting primary school is an important milestone for any 

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