Cross Organisational Mentoring Circles

A group of people from the race mentoring event in Oct 2015

In 2015/16, 17 Champion member organisations participated in the programme (from 11 organisations in 2013/14), delivering opportunities for 174 mentees across 26 circles.  9 of the 11 organisations that joined the first cohort have returned and continued to participate in each subsequent annual cycle.  

Participating organisations of the fourth cohort of Business in the Community's Race Champion Cross Organisational Mentoring Circles programme: 

Army / BT / CA Technologies / CPS / Credit Suisse / Department for Education / DWF LLP / DWP / Environment Agency / FCA / Google* / HarperCollins* /  Home Office / HMRC / HSBC / M&S / Ministry of Defence / National Grid / Royal Navy / Network Rail / Pertemps* / Public Health England / Royal Air Force  / Royal Bank of Scotland / Royal Mail / Sainsbury’s / State Street / TSB

* Lead mentors only


Our research, Race to Progress, revealed that progression is more important to BAME workers than to white employees, but that despite this, white employees have an average of 4 promotions compared to 2.5 for ethnic minority groups.  BAME employees are more likely than white employees to feel that the demand for mentoring is not being met by their organisation.  Mentoring is a vital part of any programme to help talented individuals rise up the career ladder, and to retain them.

The BAME mentoring circles programme was launched in December 2013. Mentees from different organisations learning together, coaching, challenging and supporting each other. Each circle is led by a senior level mentor who is committed to the advancement of BAME employees.  




Benefits of mentoring circles

Our evaluation has shown us that during the programme Mentees become more aware of their own skills, talents, abilities and areas that could benefit from focused personal development activity. This helps strengthen the talent pipeline and increases individual motivation and fulfilment. Mentees who participate in the circles have increased confidence to apply for promotion. Middle managers get informal exposure to senior directors and leaders from a range of organisations and hear about a variety of progression routes from a broad range of perspectives.  There is also a safe space to explore some of the challenging organisational barriers that may exist and potential strategies to overcome them, group discussions on how to navigate the complexities of organisational cultures and how to be leaders within their organisations who positively influence change. Overall post programme we find that the participants are more committed to the company and retention is enhanced.or unicode document.


Criteria for being a mentor

In addition to experiencing the satisfaction in giving something back to your work community and in fostering the growth and development of others, as a mentor on the BAME cross-organisational mentoring circles programme, you will benefit from the following business advantages:

  • A chance to develop inclusive leadership skills.
  • An opportunity to increase visibility and professional reputation.
  • Unique insight into wider organisational practices.
  • Enhanced peer recognition and networking opportunities.
  • A direct link to the emerging talent pipeline.
  • A renewed focus on your own career development.
  • Greater appreciation of challenges experienced by BAME

Evaluate if being a mentor is right for you, do you have what it takes to be a mentor?

  • Do you have a genuine regard for, and interest in others, and a high level of self-regard?
  • Do you have the discipline to plan and prepare for the circle meetings?
  • Are you objective, supportive and non-judgemental?
  • Are you passionate about developing others?
  • Does the programme fit with your own personal and professional aspirations?
  • Can you commit the time and guarantee making space in your busy diary for meetings and preparation?

Criteria for being a mentee

In order to be eligible for and benefit fully from participating as a mentee, you should:

  • Have a genuine desire for further development and be committed to the programme.
  • Be proactive and honest, as well as constructively challenging and supportive to colleagues.
  • Agree to attend all sessions (the launch event, circle meetings, and celebratory closing event), and complete preparatory work before and between meetings as required.

We find consistently that the participants who get the most out of the mentoring circles programme can say ‘yes’ to all of the following questions:

  •   Are you serious about developing your career?
  •   Are you prepared to be honest and open?
  •   Are you comfortable sharing challenges and experiences in a safe group environment?
  •   Are you ready to hear and apply constructive criticism?
  •   Are you prepared to take responsibility for your own professional growth?
  •   Do you have the required time and focus to commit to this?

Mentoring circle format

  • The first meeting is used to find out the topics mentees are interested in, and for discussing a group agreement and forward plans for the following meetings, which are confirmed before meeting two. 
  • The second circle meeting focuses on the mentor’s experience and journey, and following meetings tend to be topic-based.
  • It is important that both mentor and mentees are clear about boundaries and ways of working right at the start. 
  • A circle co- ordinator is elected to take minutes, share articles and confirm practical arrangements with peers.