Career Accelerator and Ocado Join Forces to Introduce Highly Successful LGBT+ Mentoring Programme

It’s Pride month and many companies are focusing on improving diversity and inclusion in their workforce.

One great example is Ocado, the online grocery business who has partnered with Career Accelerator a leading UK education business to mentor students and help prepare them for the world of work. Recently they participated in its LGBT+ business mentoring programme with five employees as mentors.

Elise TylerGlobal Listening & Engagement Specialist in the Global Culture & Engagement Team at Ocado introduced the initiative to Ocado, having taken part in Pride and LGBT roundtables hosted by Career Accelerator, where businesses came together to share good practice and explore collaboration opportunities around LGBT+; gender; race and neurodiversity and disability.

After hearing Mayur Gupta, CEO at Career Accelerator highlight a statistic at one of the roundtable events from a Vodafone[i]  study that 41% of 18-25 year olds have gone ‘back into the closet’ within their first year of employment for fear of discrimination, Elise decided that an LGBT+ business mentoring programme would benefit Ocado’s employees and business.

Career Accelerator introduced the innovative LGBT+ business mentoring programme last year. It provides meaningful volunteering opportunities to LGBT+ networks and supports businesses to become inclusive places for LGBT+ youth to thrive. Companies including Cisco, GoCardless, Snapchat, Ocado, JLL, Pearson and Salesforce have all taken part with employees mentoring young LGBT+ people.

According to Stonewall[ii] 45% of young people are bullied for being LGBT+ at school and half of bullied LGBT+ pupils feel that bullying has had a negative effect on their plans for future education. LGBT+ young people’s assumptions about how safe or inclusive a workplace is can significantly narrow the employment and career paths they feel are open to them.

Elise said: “I am co-chair of the Pride leadership group – a group started by our logistics team in 2017. After hearing the heart-breaking statistic about young people going back into the closet, I wanted to do something to help change this and the LGBT+ programme seemed like a good way to do this. It’s been hugely successful, and we’ve all learnt a great deal. As mentors it provided us with different experiences and perspectives with people who are about to enter the workforce. It has made us consider how we present ourselves to the world and how we can promote the business as a good place to work by listening to what young people want and value.”

Elise mentored a young law student at Cambridge University. She spent a lot of time discussing authenticity, leadership and D&I, and encouraged them to always research a company’s commitment to Diversity and Inclusion as it will give them insight into whether it’s the type of organisation they want to work for.

The mentee had never thought about doing this, but since working with Elise to understand how beneficial this is, they will hopefully be able to make an informed choice about where they want to work and find a company that reflects their values and will accept them for who they are. It’s already proved extremely useful.

During the programme the mentee was applying for an internship and spent a great deal of time researching the organisation they thought they wanted to do this at, providing Elise with a fantastic and insightful report, which impressed her enormously.

Elise said: “I feel lucky to have worked with my mentee and was hugely impressed by their commitment, confidence and awareness of the world around them. There wasn’t this awareness when I was starting out, so it’s great to see progress being made. It’s also reassuring as a lot of young people today can be viewed quite negatively, always on their phones and social media, but through this programme I’ve learnt how remarkable and aware some young people are. These are the people we want in our future workforce.

“I’d highly recommend the programme as both employees and the business gain such a lot. As mentors we learn by connecting with some amazing young people who we would never normally meet which can help shape what we do. This will influence our recruitment and marketing initiatives, but also possibly bring new people into the business. Having the opportunity to recruit more diverse people is only going to be a good thing.”

As a result of how well the programme has gone, Elise plans to run it again in the future with other employees as mentors, so more people can benefit from such a positive and enlightening experience across the organisation.

The LGBT+ programme runs in collaboration with PinkNews Futures and National Student Pride to support 18-30 year old LGBT+ people prepare for careers in the modern economy, through 1:1 business mentoring led by LGBT+ mentors at LGBT+ inclusive companies.

This consists of a one hour training session, and three one hour mentoring sessions over three months. Career Accelerator selects the LGBT+ mentees, trains the mentors and mentees, supports with session ideas and puts together impact reports for the business. To find out how to get involved, click here.

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