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Saab Global
Reversed mentoring - Stefan Eriksson

Millennial mentors teach management new tricks

4 min read

How do you attract and retain younger talents, and how do you make sure to benefit from their perspective? These are questions that many companies are tackling today. At Saab there is a reverse mentorship programme where junior employees coach bosses.

Technical writer Jonna Magnusson, 27, and strategic buyer Susanna Biewendt, 25, work in the Support & Services business unit at Saab. The two started working at Saab immediately after completion of their university studies, and have been there a year and a half, and three years respectively. Since the beginning of this year they have also been mentors to the head of the business unit, Stefan Eriksson, 50.

"We've told him about our impressions from when we started working at Saab, and what we have observed that can be better. We've also spoken about how we as young talent regard leadership and what constitutes a good manager," says Susanna Biewendt.

The main reason for initiating the reverse mentorship programme is that Saab anticipates a great need in the future for recruiting young talent to the company. To be an attractive employer it's important to understand what's top of mind for young talent when they choose a position, and to know how to retain them.

That's why a decision was made that all members of the Support and Services business unit management team should have at least one mentor each. Earlier this year an invitation was sent out to all employees under 30 years old to ask if they were interested in participating in the project. There are 16 mentors and 12 managers involved in the project and in addition to group activities each mentor has one-on-one discussions with their management mentee.

"We've tried to meet each other once a month, and we've set up an agenda of topics to discuss together at each meeting," says Jonna Magnusson.

It can be anything from what is expected of a manager today to the importance of finding a work-life balance. As opposed to previously they think there is a belief that soft values play a bigger role when young talent is choosing a workplace.

"Understanding that work isn't everything is crucial. Having a private life is important too, and there needs to be the realisation that maybe you aren't always at the top of your game," says Susanna Biewendt.

Stefan Eriksson, with eight years of experience at Saab, agrees that it's more important than ever that managers have people skills, but doesn't believe that young people's needs have changed that much.

"I had the same need of a private life when I was young, but back then there was a feeling that you should be grateful that you had a job, and prioritise it. Private life was expected to take a back seat to work," he says.

They also discuss how perceptions of managers have changed between now and then.

"There used to be an exaggerated sense of awe for hierarchies. Today the boundaries are blurred and there is a more open climate," says Stefan Eriksson, as his mentors nod in agreement.

Jonna Magnusson and Susanna Biewendt both thought it was an obvious choice to participate in the reverse mentorship programme.

"If we can develop Saab, Stefan and the company it's a no brainer. It's also motivating for us to get a better understanding of what it's like to be a manager at Saab today."

3 benefits of reverse mentorship according to Susanna:

  • Deeper insight and understanding of the organisation.
  • Two-way exchange of experiences.
  • Inspiring and an engagement boost.

    3 benefits of reverse mentorship according to Jonna:
  • Inspiring, creates motivation for continuous management development.
  • Personal development, seeing things from different perspectives.
  • Meet people you wouldn't normally meet and share your experiences.

    3 benefits of reverse mentorship according to Stefan:
  • Exciting exchange of ideas and opinions about our organisation and management model.
  • Great way to experience young talents' interest in becoming future managers.
  • Exciting to share the drive and passion of our young talents.