Advice for Businesses

7 Ways to Improve Employee Development in Your Organisation

Employee development is vital in order to keep people engaged, growing, and fulfilled at work. In the last Deloitte Millennial Survey, almost half the participants said they would quit their job in the next two years given the choice. Besides being dissatisfied with pay, the top reasons for this were:

  • ‘Not enough opportunities to advance’ at 35%, and
  • ‘Lack of learning and development opportunities’ at 28%

Surveys like this prove the demand for employee development and corporate mentoring, particularly in the younger generation. The requirements of the workforce have changed in recent years, and with Gen Z now entering the business world, there’s more pressure on organisations to invest in personal and professional development.

What is employee development?

Simply, employee development is when businesses invest time, money, and resources into helping their employees learn new skills and acquire knowledge.

A company that values and prioritises employee development is likely to also have a strong learning culture, where employees are supported and actively encouraged to learn and grow. This type of working environment is more productive and more profitable, with higher employee engagement and lower turnover (Source).

7 ways to improve employee development in your organisation:

On the surface, corporate training might seem like the most obvious and straightforward way to develop your employees. But a lot of research highlights how training programmes fail, with them often being educational but not actually changing behaviour. There is a general consensus that training often contains too much lecturing, and not enough learning, and that even if employees find the training useful, they’re less likely to action what they learnt in their day to day work lives.

That’s not to say all training is redundant, of course there are many kinds of training that are still essential to employee development. However, training programmes alone just won’t cut it.

So here are 7 things to instil into your company culture that will encourage employee development at all levels:

1. Company-wide mentoring

Mentoring is one of the simplest ways to foster a culture of employee development. Many companies run tailored mentoring programmes for specific groups within their business, such as senior management, high-potentials, or graduates. While this is certainly valuable, and can accelerate individual career progression, it’s also highly exclusive. In order to build an inclusive workplace which gives everyone equal opportunity to career development, companies need to make mentoring accessible to everyone.

By establishing internal mentoring as a core part of your organisation’s culture, you will encourage employee development at all levels of the business. One company that has seen success from this approach is Marks & Spencer, who have incorporated Guider’s mentoring platform into their internal system, so that anyone can mentor, or be mentored by, anyone else within the business at any time.

Read more: Why A Corporate Mentoring Program is Important

2. Coach training for your managers

To go alongside this culture of mentoring, a further way of improving employee development is to provide coaching training for your management teams.

If managers are supported to become better coaches, they will in turn become better leaders. Their management style will then filter down through their team, embedding a coaching kind of leadership within the business. They can develop skills such as asking questions the Socratic way, high self-awareness, encouraging others to think for themselves, and also building deeper human connections.

Helping your managers to become better coaches will not only improve their employee development, but also their team members. Plus, managers who have undergone coach training will make fantastic mentors.

Read more: The Different Types of Coaching

Read more: How To Start A Mentoring Programme: A Step by Step Guide

3. Focus on learning in the day-to-day

This is a small cultural change which can have a big impact if done properly. In order to build a learning culture that values employee development, people need to be given the opportunity to focus on it.

By incorporating a learning focus into every day meetings, or allowing time for additional learning in people’s weeks, you can create small but impactful change. Mindsets will shift from learning or training being an ‘away day’ every quarter, to something that is a part of their day to day routine. Some simple ways to do this are:

  • Begin or end meetings with everyone sharing something new they’ve learnt – this could be specific or technical, something about the industry, an interesting conversation they’ve had, or even the way that they best work.
  • Framing and discussing ‘mistakes’ as ‘lessons’ – language is important, and something as small as this shift can make a difference to employee mindset.
  • Giving people time in their weeks for learning: something they want to read more about, a course, a mentoring session. Make it clear that this is not only accepted but actively encouraged – giving people the freedom and respect to focus on their own development is an impactful cultural value.

4. Encourage personal development

Following on from that final suggestion, encouraging personal development is also a sure fire way of improving employee development (because really, they’re the same thing).

This again is a mindset shift, ’employee development’ makes it seem like it’s contained to life at work, and has associations of old fashioned corporate training. When really, if you encourage people to focus on their personal development, there will naturally be a positive impact for the business. It also shows that you care about them as individuals, and not just as employees.

Some simple ways to encourage personal development at work are:

  • Setting personal development goals alongside work goals and discussing how they can best be achieved.
  • Focus on self-awareness and have open discussions around the different ways people think and work.
  • Setting personal development challenges in teams to add an element of community.
  • Sharing and celebrating personal development wins and achievements in the workplace.

5. Establish a feedback culture

Feedback is one of the best ways that people learn and grow. To improve employee development across all levels of the business, it’s vital to try and instil a culture of feedback where people feel comfortable giving it, and are also hungry to receive it.

This can be a challenge as people respond to feedback in different ways, which is where having managers who have had coach training comes in very handy. But there are some simple things any business can do to create a better feedback culture:

  • Have an accessible doc or video on what good feedback looks like that’s shared across the business, shown to new starters, and re-circulated regularly. Essentially a ‘source of truth’ for feedback in the business.
  • Have managers schedule in feedback sessions so that both parties can mentally prepare for feedback. Often people take feedback badly when they’ve been taken off guard, or they feel it’s been delivered in a rush.
  • Encourage two-way feedback. Make it clear that the feedback culture isn’t just management downwards, but that as a business you welcome upwards feedback in order to continually improve.

6. Encourage managers to delegate

Again, this is another simple behavioural change that can improve employee development in your organisation. By getting managers to delegate more, you create an environment where people are levelling up, stepping out of their comfort zone, and learning by doing. This will make employees feel a greater sense of responsibility, which additionally contributes to their development.

Delegating is also an opportunity for managers to relinquish a bit of control, and be more collaborative, which further helps them develop as leaders.

Tip: When delegating, ensure people feel that they’re not solely responsible for the task or project. Feeling pressure to complete something by yourself can be detrimental to employee development, so managers should still be available to support and their team should feel comfortable asking questions.

7. Get managers and leaders on board

Finally, none of the above employee development tips can work successfully without managers and leadership on board!

A thriving learning culture has to come from the top, with managers encouraging their teams, opening up conversations, and supporting their growth and learning.

Ensure managers and leaders are bought into the same vision for the company culture, and you’re bound to see employee development improve!

Diversity and Inclusion

3 Steps to Promote Gender Equality and Inclusivity

As the conversation on gender biases and inequality continues to take centre stage on a global platform, it’s important to understand and recognise unconscious prejudices projected towards women both within the workplace and outside.

Here are 3 simple steps organisations can take to promote gender equality and foster an inclusive workplace…

Step 1: Acknowledging the Problem

Entering the professional world is a daunting prospect for all. However, it’s greatly accepted that the business world is significantly male dominated, with men holding up 71% of all senior management positions worldwide.

The conceptualised idea of a single gender ‘domination’ is continuing to be challenged across all platforms, with a great revolt against gender biases and push for equality. Whilst there is a general understanding being clearly identified and voiced, it raises the question as to why there is such a delayed response?

With women notably earning less than their male colleagues. In the United Kingdom it is stated whilst the Gender Pay Gap is on the decline, it still remains at 17.3% as of 2019. It’s a troublesome notion to accept. As more young women enter the business world there is a fundamental need for change.

The prospect of leadership should seem attainable for all. One of the hardest challenges for women who are newly entering an industry and seeking leadership positions, is that when there isn’t prominent representation of women in senior management roles, it becomes increasingly challenging to envision themselves in such postings.

Therefore, the importance and change of diversity needs to be widely included across ranks within business, boosting representation at all levels. By providing inspiring role models for aspiring young professionals, businesses can establish a pipeline for progressional career and personal development for all their employees.

Whilst the barriers women continue to face in and outside of the professional field may appear invisible, they remain systemically and institutionally ingrained. Raising plausible questions such as simply: why aren’t the same management positions available to women? With many women falling victim to ageism, sexist prejudice and discriminatory behaviour, which notably isn’t solely associated to male to female relationships, but to female to female relationships as well. Leading many women to believe that their biggest competition is with each other.

This toxic perception arguably feeds into the barriers, and it’s imperative that it continues to be broken down. That voices aren’t silenced and progression remains a hot topic of discussion. As reflected through employment ratios to senior executive and CEO positions as outlined by Catalyst “women are about half of all those employed in the European Union and yet represent just 17% of senior executives”. Countries such as France only have 37.6% of women in managerial positions, whilst Germany has 30.6% and the United Kingdom has 37.2% as of 2019. Furthermore, it should be noted that women of colour and members of the LGBTQ+ community face further marginalisation in the workplace, which needs to be urgently addressed.

Gender diversity fundamentally should and needs to be pursued across the business world. The promotion of diversity and inclusion not only rejects forms of social injustice, but has been proven to boost companies’ revenues by 19%.

Step 2: Fostering Open Discourse

The use of open communication enables the process of problem solving, that allows individuals to voice concerns as well as progressively collaborate on finding solutions. It’s an extremely valuable asset that should be applied across all fields, particularly as it also support inclusion efforts.

Open discourse is especially critical surrounding the ongoing discussion of gender diversity. As whilst issues can be identified in regard to gender representation in the corporate world, without voices being actively brought to the table, it can be strongly suggested that progression will remain limited. By utilising the means of open communication, businesses can adopt proactive techniques to tackle underlying gender bias.

This arguably starts from the top down, as outlined by TruScore in their guide to communication in the workplace: if senior managers foster levels of open communication ‘it showcases trends and habits that they wish for the business to adopt’.

This further creates a sense of an open communication culture, making employees more likely to approach senior managers with queries and struggles. This can be explored through multiple different means, from online communication forums, social events, to formal meetings and training. Establishing a safe environment for both employees and management to discuss on-going obstacles that could further lead to the implementation of informal or formal support initiatives.

Step 3: Establishing Formal Support

While step 1 and 2 are necessary in the fight for equal and inclusive workforces, they can’t provoke change alone.

Things like mentoring and sponsorship are crucial support mechanisms that should be mobilised across the professional world, aiding personal and career development of women and other minority employees. It elevates confidence, aspiration and job satisfaction and it can be offered through both informal and formal means. Mentoring programs have been tailored to purposefully promote women in leadership; to maximise their potential in the workplace, and to inspire, motivate, and guide them at crucial stages.

It’s critical that organisations act as enablers, and empower women to seek leadership positions by offering them role models in the form of mentor. Systemic and institutional biases must be actively replaced with a fresh mindset, and the installation of female mentorship programs must only be the beginning. Mentoring establishes a space for learning and development, and is therefore an extremely valuable tool, not just for the promotion of women in leadership, but to further boost intersectionality in companies.

Diversity and inclusion are business-wide priorities that should be actively pursued in the corporate world and beyond, so that individuals are no longer limited by systemic and institutional barriers, whether it’s surrounding gender, race or identity. Mentoring programs aid in eliminating bias and prejudice subconsciouses, enabling large organisations to not only support their current employees, but future ones as well.

Extra Reading:

How to Improve Diversity & Inclusion with Mentoring

Racial Diversity: Boosting Representation

How to Make Your Workplace More LGBTQ+ Inclusive

Diversity and Inclusion

Reverse Mentoring: A Complete Guide to Getting it Right

Over the past few years we’ve seen a surge of interest in reverse mentoring.

Given its powerful benefits to career development, cultural competency and employee engagement, it’s time to get the lowdown on everything reverse mentoring has to offer.

We all know that traditional mentoring is a well-proven personal and career development tool. Both the person being mentored and the one doing the mentoring gain confidence, perspective and skills from the relationship.

This means that formal mentoring programs are more and more commonly used to develop skills, share knowledge, break down silos, and support diversity and inclusion initiatives.

If you want to take this a step further and supercharge your DE&I initiatives, then we highly recommend implementing a reverse mentoring program.

In this guide, we break down what reverse mentoring is, how to get it right and why you need to start a reverse mentoring program today.

📖 For more on other types of mentoring check out our full guide 📖

What is reverse mentoring?

Reverse mentoring is simply the opposite format of traditional mentoring, where the senior leader is mentored by a younger or more junior employee. Aka, mentoring in reverse.

The process recognises that there are skills gaps and opportunities to learn on both sides of a mentoring relationship. Flipping the traditional format on its head can be beneficial for both parties.

It also challenges the idea of mentoring being elitist, as it’s not about a senior person taking someone under their wing, but a formal relationship for the purpose of skill sharing and professional development.

It’s an essential part of diversity and inclusion initiatives, as well as corporate leadership training given that it both develops future leaders and existing ones.

How is reverse mentoring different to traditional mentorship?

Traditionally, mentoring involves a more senior, experienced person, advising a more junior person. Helping them develop skills, share their experiences and learnings, introduce them to relevant people, and generally support and encourage them.

However, there are a number of different types of mentoring that can be utilised for different goals, including reverse mentoring.

The key difference in reverse mentoring, is that the power dynamic is flipped on its head. It gives a more junior person the opportunity to develop leadership skills and impart wisdom upwards.

Why is reverse mentoring important?

Reverse mentoring has many personal and business benefits and can create a real lasting impact within a company. The likes of KPMG, General Electric, and Fidelity have all found success across different business areas from running this type of mentoring program. From supporting diversity initiatives to engaging and developing their graduate employees, there are many benefits to reverse mentoring.

One company, Pershings, recorded a 97% retention rate of their millennial workforce following a reverse mentoring program. With 49% of millennials stating they would quit their jobs in the next two years given the choice, retention is naturally a key challenge for many businesses. It can therefore offer an effective solution.

As well as organisational benefits, reverse mentoring is a powerful way to build human connections and community within a business. Through mentoring at Marks & Spencer, many senior employees are both being mentors and being mentored. One mentor, James Newton-Brown, spoke of his experience:

“Every time you have a conversation with someone, you learn something. You learn something about people’s behaviour, their motivations, and most importantly you learn something about yourself. For me, it’s a win-win all round.” James, Marks & Spencer

What are the benefits of reverse mentoring?

Further benefits include:

  • Building a learning culture
  • Closing generational gaps
  • Developing leadership skills in younger employees
  • Millennial retention
  • Improving cultural competency
  • Sharing different perspectives
  • Supporting inclusivity
  • Developing communication skills
  • Developing self-confidence and self-awareness

As you can see, the benefits of reverse mentoring are similar to other types of mentoring but with a focus on widening perspectives and improving cultural competency.

One organisation utilising reverse mentoring for a diversity and inclusion purpose is Mazars. Hear from the Program Manager, Sponsee and Sponsor on their experience of reverse mentoring via Guider:

What are the uses of reverse mentoring?

When it comes to workplace mentoring programs, they can be used to support various business impact areas, or achieve business objectives. From corporate leadership training to up-skilling your workforce, there are so many ways that reverse mentoring can benefit your organisation.

These include:


An inclusive workplace is one that factors in all people equally. Where progression opportunities are visible to everyone, and where decision-making groups are diverse. Role models within the business are important, yet it’s hard for employees from minority groups to aspire to leadership when they can’t see anyone that looks like them in those positions.

It also may be difficult for leadership to truly understand and recognise the structural and cultural barriers that affect certain employees within the organisation when they don’t have direct exposure to their experiences.

This is where reverse mentoring can be highly effective. By pairing mentors from under-represented groups with mentees in senior management, they can effectively share perspectives, learn from each other, and work towards a more inclusive company culture.

This provides leadership mentoring for junior staff and also acts as corporate leadership training by improving the cultural competency of senior leaders.

It’s also a great way for BAME, LGBTQ+, disabled, and other underrepresented employees to grow their leadership networks in the business and open doors that are typically harder to get through due to systemic inequalities.

📖 Want to learn more about using mentoring to support D&I? Find out more in our guide 📖

Closing generational gaps

Bridging the gap between generations in a company is a challenge. The graduate scheme intake each year will be welcoming people into an organisation which operates very differently from the way it did when people who have worked there for decades joined – making it difficult to relate to one another. Particularly with digital transformation and the speed at which businesses are changing and developing, there can be a disconnect between older and younger employees.

Reverse mentoring is an effective way of breaking down these silos between generations, exposing those who have worked in the business for a long time to a fresh perspective on the way things are run, and the industry as a whole. New employees can also bring fresh ideas and approach things in a different way, which can inspire innovation in those who may be more stuck in their ways. Again, this is a great way to provide leadership mentoring for both future and existing leaders, sharing knowledge, experience and perspectives.

This nicely leads to another common use…

Digital skills development

In the fast-paced modern world we live in, keeping up with technological advancements and skills can be difficult. Even software engineers, the most digitally savvy of the workforce, still require lots of reading, training, and mentoring to keep up to date with new technologies. For some, learning about social media, cloud-based computing and other modern digital skills can be overwhelming.

The graduates now entering the workforce are from Gen Z – the first digitally native generation – meaning that they grew up with advanced digital technology. Rather than putting senior colleagues on training programs which generally get very low engagement, reverse mentoring is a common and effective approach to increasing digital skills in employees.

This kind of reverse mentoring also contributes to inclusivity, helping tackle ageism and increase confidence when discussing digital topics at work.

Millennial retention

Many companies struggle with retaining millennial and Gen-Z talent. Different expectations of work and changes in culture around job-hopping, mean that many companies are working harder to attract and retain this demographic.

And given that 40% of the workforce will be made up of Millennials by 2025 (and rising), it’s a vital issue to get right.

Reverse mentoring provides more junior or mid-level employees greater access to senior leadership. This can give them the opportunity to develop their skills, progress and provides the recognition and transparency they seek. This all contributes to better employee engagement and happiness, leading to greater retention among these demographics.

Leadership mentoring

Finally, reverse mentoring is a highly effective way of developing leadership skills in younger employees. By giving graduates and new joiners the additional responsibility of being a mentor, they have a platform to increase their communication skills, practice empathy, learn the art of asking good questions, and generally become more self-aware – all of which are vital skills of a good leader.

Naturally, the mentor will also be learning a lot from their mentee as they build their relationship. If they are mentoring someone senior who has been in the business a long time, they can also act as a role model who can increase their aspirations for leadership within the company. Running a reverse mentoring program to develop future leaders can therefore also positively impact retention.

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How to start a reverse mentoring program

Step 1: Outline the objective

The first step is to define the purpose of your reverse mentoring program. By identifying which use of reverse mentoring is most critical to your people, you can then outline what success will look like and how to measure it.

For example:

Objective of the program: Digital skills development

Method: The reverse mentoring program will pair junior employees with advanced digital skills with more senior employees that need to improve in this area. The mentors will offer training and support in digital skills the mentees want to develop.

Success: The mentees will have a greater understanding of digital skills by the end of the reverse mentoring program, and increased confidence in discussing technology.

Measure: Surveys and digital literacy tests before and after the program.

Step 2: Design the reverse mentoring program

Once the basics are mapped out, it’s time to work out the details. Here you need to outline:

  • Who will be on the program?
  • Are you selecting participants?
  • How many spaces will be available?
  • Will it be a set length or ongoing?
  • How do people sign up?
  • What is the expected commitment?
  • How will you monitor progress?

The answers to these questions will naturally vary from business to business and depending on the objective of the program. It’s important to be as detailed as possible at this planning stage to help your reverse mentoring program run as smoothly as possible.

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Step 3: Recruit mentors and mentees

Depending on whether your program is open (anyone can apply) or closed (selected participants) you’ll be onboarding mentors and mentees differently.

Using mentoring software like Guider makes things easier, as you can simply send out a link for people to sign up and create a profile. Within minutes they can be matched with a mentor/mentee. If you’re doing things manually, this will take a little longer.

You will need to promote the program through your internal communication channels, as well as identify target participants and invite them personally. Remember to communicate the benefits of reverse mentoring and highlight the skills and experience they will gain.

You may need to raise awareness and answer questions such as ‘What is reverse mentoring’ through content, communications campaigns and events.

Step 4: Matching mentors and mentees

An important part of setting up a reverse mentoring program is deciding how you will match the mentors and mentees. This again may vary depending on how many participants there are in the program and how they have been selected.

Typically, matches are made based on the skill set of the mentor and the desired improvement areas of the mentee, as well as personality traits and common interests. Program managers can either do this manually, using spreadsheets and their own intuition of who could make a good match or using mentoring software such as Guider.

The issue with matching mentors and mentees manually is the risk of unconscious bias or favouritism at play. For example, if the person doing the matching knew some participants personally but had never met others, their choice of mentor/mentee could be affected.

Guider uses a matching algorithm to accurately match people with the best-suited mentors for them, removing human bias and supporting inclusivity. This is particularly important if you’re using reverse mentoring for diversity and inclusion purposes.

Read our article on running a productive mentoring session to provide support to your mentors and mentees

Step 5: Launch and monitor the reverse mentoring program

Once your participants are matched, you can officially launch the program! It’s good to commemorate the launch in some way to make participants feel like they’re part of something and build a sense of community. This will help to increase commitment and maintain momentum as the relationship develops.

In order to get off to a good start, provide support and resources to the mentors and mentees to help them navigate and build their new professional relationships.

Note: this is crucial when the reverse mentoring program is focused on diversity and inclusion. Both mentor and mentee will require training on approaching and discussing uncomfortable topics, empathy, self-awareness, and what to do if the sessions are not going well.

Track how frequently the mentors and mentees are meeting, and develop a sound system for receiving feedback from the participants to know if the program is working towards your desired business objective. As reverse mentoring is very qualitative programs are traditionally difficult to measure, which is where mentoring software again offers great insight and support.

Read our article: How to Measure the Success of Your Mentoring Program

Finally, continue to monitor the progress of the participants and measure the success of the reverse mentoring program against your objective. If you need further reading on how to start a mentoring program, this article is a good read.

By following these steps when setting up your reverse mentoring program, you’re setting yourself up for success! Whether you are looking to improve cultural competency in senior leadership or up-skill in digital technologies, reverse mentoring can help.

As you can see, reverse mentoring is a powerful tool to support your people. With uses across diversity and inclusion, leadership development and digital skills, it’s an important part of your mentoring toolkit.

If you’re interested in learning more or need advice setting up a program, talk to our team today