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The reversed mentorship programme

Our 2023 Inclusion mission is to create an inclusive workplace in which every individual can be their true self, is respected, and can fulfil their potential. We want to create an inclusive culture that attracts and retains diverse talent and is representative of our society. While continuing to move the needle on l&D, we have an urgency to increase cultural inclusion & diversity at our firm.

One of the initiatives is the 'reversed cultural mentoring', where Deloitte leaders will be mentored by a colleague with a (multi-)cultural background. The goal is to improve knowledge and sensitivity of our leaders to these challenges. Reverse mentorship allows senior leaders to better understand the personal and business case for cultural inclusion & diversity, and empathise with underrepresented employees via personal storytelling and dilemma sharing. The executive board started the Reverse Mentorship Programme. Jobun Polime (Consultant) interviewed Emre Cicek (Junior Manager) and Alexander Olgers (Partner) about their experiences as participants of the program.

How have you experienced the Cultural Reversed mentoring programme so far?

Emre Cicek: 'My experience with the programme is very positive. Alexander and I have a call once a month. We delve deeper into Turkish of origin and also Muslim. I like to tell personal stories about my cultural background and religion, which makes the programme even more fun. Alexander has given me feedback various times that he learns a lot from my personal stories, which means a lot to me. A good example of this is my personal experience of Ramadan that I shared with Alexander during this holy Islamic month. I have explained my experience with not being allowed to eat or drink anything from sunset to sunset for  a month. As a result of sharing this personal experience, Alexander mentioned that he is paying more and more attention to Ramadan in his daily life. The great thing about this example is you see that the personal experiences that Alexander and I share with each other, also have an actual impact on our daily lives. This programme is also very educational for me. Alexander tells a lot about his life and views social themes deal with this within our organisation. As a result I have a very positive view of Alexander and Deloitte as an organisation.'

Alexander Olgers: 'I completely agree with Emre. The programme broadens both of our horizons. For me personally, the program is very rich and valuable. Questions that are raised during our conversations vary from - can you really be yourself within Deloitte? - to: do you feel at home within the organisation? It is very important that you feel appreciated and respected. In our dialogues, we exchange in an accessible way how these practices are translated into our daily work. For example, in the collaboration with colleagues and the assignments we are working on. Diversity, in its broadest sense, will always remain important within Deloitte. lf we as an organisation want to be future-proof at the core, then we have to be a reflection of the Dutch society. We are all part of that and in fact; have a social responsibility as a firm.'

"If we as an organisation want to be future-proof at the core, then you have to be a reflection of Dutch society. We are all part of that and in fact; have a social responsibility as Deloitte."

- Alexander Olgers, Partner Deloitte Netherlands

How can Deloitte further strengthen itself as an organisation in this area?

Emre Cicek: 'Programmes such as Cultural Reversed Mentoring contribute to this. Mutual understanding also plays an important role. When you understand someone better - in this case people who have a cultural background that differs from your own - then I think you are automatically have a more open mindset. As a result, we stimulate mutual understanding and at the same time more diversity in the workplace.'

Alexander Olgers: 'I agree with Emre. I think it's also about awareness. Within Financial  Advisory we recently  agreed that Partners should include a Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) KPI in their scorecard. A great milestone which also offers Partners the opportunity to translate such an initiative to the Directors they guide. However, I am not going to impose it on them, but let them think about it for themselves. They can determine what kind of D&I KPI they want to include on their scorecard, which is of course SMART formulated. In addition, I explicitly try to focus on diversity and gender within my practice. A program like this contributes to this focus. A personal note I want to make: it's also just really nice to help Emre with my knowledge and experience. In doing so, I can guide him with his ambitions within Deloitte and offer support in what he aspires.'

How can we offer our D&I strategy within Deloitte an extra boost?

Alexander Olgers: 'It is good to have Partners participate in such a programme. A D&I KPI - which I already touched upon briefly - also offers an extra incentive. Leaders can determine how they deal with this within their own practice, so that you create support in a natural way. I think that support already exists for the vast majority within Deloitte. It should go without saying that people with different interests, backgrounds, cultures, norms and values are part of our community. Whether you come from Groningen, Suriname or Turkey. In addition, we must continuously discuss how our norms, values and culture as an organisation are expressed at a behavioural level in the workplace and how we deal with sensitive situations from that perspective. Of course this is easier for some people than others. I think behaviour is an expression of the norms and values that you partly receive from home. We behave differently in the work environment than at home. At the same time, you strive for behaviour to remain as authentic as possible, otherwise it might become forced and unsustainable. For example, it is of no use for anyone if I only talk about myself at work. For Emre, religion is an important part of his life. He deals with this in a different way at home than at work. That's totally fine. In every situation you should be able to feel comfortable with that. We also talk about that a lot.'

Emre Cicek: 'I completely agree with Alexander's statements. We have very personal conversations. I come up with very specific situations and Alexander responds to that. It can be about religion, my cultural background or what I look like. That gives me a very good idea of how I can deal with certain situations. It also creates more understanding for both Alexander and me. We really 'zoom' in on the details and name specific situations . That's what makes the programme so much fun. It really helped me to create more mutual understanding.'

Alexander Olgers: 'What I notice is that we talk with each other in complete equality. Reversed mentoring doesn't quite cover how we approach our conversations. It is a 'two-way street' and 'equality' is 'key' in this.'

What have you learned from each other so far when it comes to actual behavioural change in certain situations?

Emre Cicek: 'Before I took part in this programme and ended up in a situation at work where I wanted to practice my religion, I was very concerned with how my colleagues thought about it. What are they thinking and should I ask? What can or can't I do or say? The conversations with Alexander taught me to think about this in a nuanced way and to communicate about  certain situations with the right people, so that I also feel at home at Deloitte. This really helped me and made an impact on my career at Deloitte. It will benefit me in the  long term, because I feel, and perhaps more so, at home at Deloitte.'

Alexander Olgers: 'The conversations have helped me to delve deeper when it comes to better understanding colleagues with cultural backgrounds that differ from mine. How do we do something with D&I as a theme and how do we define it as a whole? Perhaps we should take a broader approach. In my experience we are already very diverse. At Deloitte Netherlands we work together with 70 different nationalities.'

"The conversations with Alexander taught me to think about this in a nuanced way and to communicate with the right people, so that I also feel at home at Deloitte."

- Emre Cicek, Junior Manager Deloitte Netherlands

What lessons learned would you like to share?

Emre Cicek: 'There are a lot. We talk about so many different topics. The most important thing is that you create mutual understanding, as said before. This ultimately promotes diversity. The more mutual understanding, the more open you are to each other.'

Alexander Olgers: 'For me this question is the whole reason behind joining the Reversed Mentoring programme. In addition, I have also learned from this that colleagues who come from other regions, hold different positions/functions or are in a different phase of their career, benefit greatly from mentoring from the leadership team. Emre indicates that the conversations we have with each other help him in his 'well-being' and the perspective he sees for himself within Deloitte. I think that is partly separate from D&I and is based much more on the dialogue we have with each other.'

How can we make Deloitte more inclusive as an organisation?

Emre Cicek: 'I think that we, as an organisation, can make good use of social media to send a message to society that we are open to all cultures.'

Alexander Olgers: 'I think we are already doing the right things there. In my experience, it is also a matter of: 'just do it!' As a company, we have to propagate what we stand for. We have a social responsibility and an exemplary role, after all. At the same time, as an organisation we have to make well-considered choices within our strategy, and timing is very important. So, we act now.'