With digital technology developing at an increasing pace and changing business processes as it goes, it can be hard to stay on top of all the changes. To help its employees keep up, BNP Paribas Personal Finance has introduced a Digital Reverse Mentoring programme. Like the digital natives helping to implement it, the programme is innovative and totally connected, offering a straightforward, intergenerational approach to learning that really works. Experienced managers are coached by employees with more digital skills on things like social media and big data - topics that can seem vast and scary to many baby-boomers.
It’s the perfect way of using digital technologies to bring generations together, rather than increase the divide. More and more people have been signing up to the programme since it was first launched inside - and outside - France.
Leanne and Stephen have been involved in the UK since 2018. Here they tell us what made them decide to take part, the kind of topics that come up, and what the mechanism has brought them from both a professional and a personal point of view.
Please can you introduce yourself?
Leanne: I’m Leanne Gibson, I’m 24 and I am a Talent & Development Coordinator at BNP Paribas Personal Finance in the United Kingdom.
Stephen: I’m Stephen Hunt and I’m CEO at BNP Paribas Personal Finance in the UK.
Can you explain what Reverse Mentoring actually is?
Leanne: Reverse Mentoring is a training programme involving different generations. It’s rather unusual, in that younger people talk to older ones about their experience and skills and try to pass on what they have learnt.
Stephen: I joined the programme in mid-2018 and I was given Leanne as my mentor. It was a great opportunity for me to talk to colleagues I may never have had occasion to speak to otherwise. It gave me a chance, for example, to find out more about how people use social media, both professionally and personally.
How exactly was the programme rolled out at BNP Paribas Personal Finance?
Leanne: In the UK, the Digital Reverse Mentoring programme was launched via a call for applications. First of all, prospective mentors and mentees were asked to register their particular interests. Next, groups were given training. BNP Paribas Personal Finance trained and provided us with all the necessary materials, so that we could practise what we’d learnt and do things properly.
What did you particularly like about the programme?
Leanne: What I like about it, is that it’s unlike any other training programme. As Stephen was saying, it gave me a chance to talk to someone who didn’t work in my department, and learn from them, whilst at the same time passing on what I knew. It also helped me improve my communication skills. It’s different from the usual “we’re here to work” type of situation. It all takes place in a relaxed atmosphere and the people are great. It really is good for everyone, it helps break down barriers and strengthens ties within the company.
Stephen: Personally, I learnt a lot. I make very little use of social media at work and even less outside work. I’m really intrigued by it though, and I wanted to find out why people use it so much and what they hope to achieve. My children spend a lot of time on it too, so I wanted to know how I could use social media appropriately. I found out how the different social media communities worked on the various different platforms. For example, I learnt that it’s better to use Twitter if you want to get hold of a customer service department, rather than spend 20 minutes on the phone trying to contact the company directly.
Have you seen any improvements in intergenerational relationships since Reverse Mentoring was introduced?
Leanne: I think that this kind of scheme helps people understand each other better. The programme helps younger and older people to really talk about things, in a less formal setting. You may well have different experiences, different opinions and different points of view about something - that’s what makes it so rewarding.
Stephen: I think that’s something that will grow as the programme expands.
What would you say to somebody who’d like to get involved in the programme?
Leanne: I’d just tell them not to think twice, just go for it. It’s a truly unique experience, and it’s really enriching and rewarding for both parties. If you get a chance to take part, you really should go for it.
Stephen: You need to be open-minded, have no second thoughts and just go for it. It’s a bit of a personal challenge in a way.
How would you describe the experience in a nutshell?
Leanne: It’s a really rewarding experience that helps bring people together within the company. I’m proud to have been involved.
Stephen: The programme forced me to move out of my comfort zone and learn a lot of new things.