Freeformers launches Reverse Mentoring programme for CEOs

By Adam Freeman, Co-Founder and Partner, Freeformers

Digital technology is disrupting businesses and markets at an unprecedented rate, setting leadership challenges beyond what most senior executives have ever experienced.

That is why on Monday we held an event as part of London Tech Week to launch our new Reverse Mentoring programme — a chance for CEOs and leaders to gain digital knowledge and insight from a diverse and talented group of young people based within the Freeformers network.

The companies of today now battle daily with the challenges of tomorrow in order to meet changing consumer demands, needs and habits; each of which is driven by technology at a faster and faster pace.

From each of the workforce transformation programmes we carry out for our clients, we regularly see the positive impact on profit and purpose when employees of all levels gain the digital skills and knowledge for the Future of Work.

But we know this works best when it starts at the leadership and works down.

As our Chairman Sir Anthony Salz says in the Foreword to our recently-published report called Mapping the Digital Future:

“Now as digital change gathers pace, there is no alternative but to understand what this means for your business. It’s not sufficient to rely on your specialist technology team, this mindset shift is ideally led at the top, at CEO and Board level.”

One common theme that emerged during the creation of that report was the fear of CEOs and top-level execs who felt they did not personally have the right digital skills to lead their organisations through the next phase of digital disruption as well as they’d like. This is a difficult position to be in when the whole organisation looks to them for strategic direction.

However, we have found many aren’t readily engaging in even the simplest of ways.

In desk research we carried out at the end of May 2017, we discovered just 14 FTSE 100 CEOs had an easily identifiable Twitter account in use in their own name or as a general CEO persona representing their company. Only seven of those accounts had been Tweeted from since the start of 2017.

Among the FTSE 250, the story was no different. We discovered 23 CEOs with a Twitter account in their own name or as a CEO persona and only 15 had been used to tweet from this year.

If such a basic way to digitally communicate with people is so woefully under-used, how can leaders expect to tackle even more complex technological problems and choices.

It is interesting that while we were researching this, Sir Anthony (a former lawyer, investment banker and Vice Chairman of BBC as well as Non-Executive Chairman at Bloomsbury Publishing Plc) has become the first person to sign up to our Reverse Mentoring programme, being mentored by Freeformers Digital Coach Anthony Adeloye. It’s a pairing you’d rarely find in the traditional incumbent business world but it’s working brilliantly.

Anthony (the younger one) gets the chance to gain knowledge and inspiration from someone who has been at the forefront of business for decades. In turn, Sir Anthony is able to find out more about what today’s digital changes mean for young people, learn new skills such as joining Twitter and building his own website and he gains the confidence to take this into his own professional life.

Our Reverse Mentoring programme has been launched in partnership with Business In The Community, The Prince’s Responsible Business Network, and we’re now looking to fill 10 places in our first cohort of business leaders. Already Claudia Harris, CEO of the Careers and Enterprise Company, has signed up.

The Reverse Mentoring sessions are broken down into 3x two-hour personal sessions over eight weeks, with some light online tasks in between.
It will include a full review of social media presence with practical, actionable advice on how to take it to the next level; tips, tricks and tools to streamline a working day with digital; how to keep accounts safe from hackers and there will be plenty of time to ask questions about the next generation of consumer/employee/customer.

If you would like to learn more, please email me at futureofwork@freeformers.com

Mentoring may be an age-old concept. But we must never forget that different ages have different and just as valid experiences to offer. That’s where Reverse Mentoring comes in. So why not join us? You may just learn something!