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How a Mentorship Program Can Drive Your Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategy

DEI Mentorship

Creating an inclusive work culture has many benefits, but it can often take a long time to achieve. If you’re part of an organization that is in the beginning stages of implementing a Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) strategy, a mentorship program is a good way to move your DEI efforts forward. Mentorship programs provide one way to create a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace culture that attracts and retains talent.

What is a mentorship program?

Mentoring refers to one-on-one relationships between a mentor and mentee, where the mentor shares their knowledge, skills, and experience with the mentee to assist in their development professionally and personally. Typically, these relationships are centered around professional interests, but can also cover and expand into one’s personal life.

Research supports the notion that mentoring is a vital component when steering towards an inclusive work culture and retaining diverse talent. A study from Moving Ahead found that 87 percent of mentors and mentees feel empowered by their mentoring relationships and have developed greater confidence in both the workplace and in their personal lives. Additionally, multiple studies prove the benefits of successful mentoring programs, including greater career success for individuals and higher levels of employee engagement, retention, and knowledge-sharing for organizations.

Why is mentorship important in DEI?

From a DEI lens, mentorship programs can substantially benefit marginalized employee groups. According to a Forbes study, women and underrepresented groups were more likely to say that mentoring was an important aspect of their career. Mentors play a valuable role in the career progression of diverse talent. In one article from Harvard Business Review, the career progressions of minorities at U.S. corporations were examined and found a distinct result. “People of color who advance the furthest all share one characteristic—a strong network of mentors and corporate sponsors who nurture their professional development,” says the author. This research demonstrates that mentorship may be a crucial element to the career progression for minorities. Bringing a mentorship program to your organization could be a fundamental element missing from your DEI program.

According to an American Psychological Association article, I/O psychologist Victoria Mattingly, PhD, founder and CEO of Mattingly Solutions, stated when it comes to mentors, it’s important that women seek out both mentors, who can provide career guidance, support, feedback, and knowledge, as well as sponsors, who go beyond the role of mentor and use their position and influence to proactively advocate for a junior employee’s advancement. “Research shows that sponsorship is more effective at helping advance into leadership positions than mentorship,” Mattingly said. “Mentors are great as a sounding board and to provide guidance, but when the rubber hits the road, you need someone who will speak up for you when you’re not in the room.”

Mentoring in the workplace

Implementing a mentorship program will help all employees flourish within the organization and allows those from marginalized groups to receive the additional guidance and support they need to achieve upper management and leadership roles within the company.

Some reasons why mentoring is a foundational component of a DEI program:

  • Increased employee engagement and employee retention by improved job satisfaction with an inclusive work culture. Mentoring can provide opportunities for skill development, increased productivity, and internal networking as employees develop into leadership positions or assume new responsibilities.
  • Improved connections between leadership and the organization workforce. By creating a mentoring program that promotes more connection between executives, upper management, and the rest of the workforce, the enterprise social network becomes much more inclusive, paving the pathway for a more representative leadership pipeline.
  • Diversity of Leadership. A mentor/mentee relationship with someone who has succeeded at the highest level is beneficial for any developing professional, but it’s particularly important for those who are from marginalized communities. By adopting the right formal structure, mentoring programs are found to be quite effectiveat improving the movement of minority mentees into leadership positions. A study found that mentoring, in comparison to other corporate tactics (such as mandatory diversity training, grievance systems or job tests), increased marginalized employee representation among managers in the workplace anywhere from nine to 24 percent.

Bring mentorship to your company

Mentoring programs are beneficial to overall company retention efforts and DEI strategies. It is important to be thoughtful about how these programs are structured to ensure good representation in mentees and mentors when it comes to diversity. Otherwise, it can become another workplace program that feels exclusionary. Contact us today to learn more about how PrestigePEO can support your DEI efforts.