Various shapes shaking hands demonstrating mentorship and diversity

Many companies are currently trying to move the needle on diversity and inclusion. According to Glassdoor, 57% of employees think their companies should be more diverse. Yet, SHRM found that 41% of managers say they are “too busy” to implement diversity training initiatives. 

A major problem that many companies face when trying to support diversity and inclusion is failing to make learning and development in these areas accessible and consistent. Why would employees care about diversity and inclusion if the only effort the company makes towards supporting it is forcing employees to be pulled from their work tasks for a dry, dull, forgettable training seminar?

Offering one-off seminars on diversity and inclusion is a temporary solution to a permanent problem. At best, these seminars can be relatively ineffective. At worst, they can be a total disaster. Poorly executed seminars can have the following negative results:

  • Alienating people at the cultural margins of the organization
  • Focusing on blame and shame, rather than creating a shift in the company culture that fosters communication
  • Only skimming the surface of issues related to diversity and inclusion
  • Highlighting and intensifying divisions
  • Causing frustrated and uncomfortable managers to actually hire less diverse candidates

In order to truly move the needle and show that the organization actually gives a damn, so to speak, diversity and inclusion need to become an integral part of the company culture. Learning around these topics needs to be easy to access and consistently reinforced. A great way to make this a reality is through mentorship.

How Mentoring Promotes Diversity

The most valuable aspect of a mentor-mentee relationship is the personal relationship that is formed. Through this exchange, both parties are exposed to diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences. When mentoring relationships are successful, they create the opportunity for positive behavioral change, which is crucial for companies that are dedicated to promoting diversity.

Still not convinced? The numbers show that mentoring really does help move the needle on diversity.

Mentoring has been proven to improve both the promotion and retention of diverse groups. In fact, research from Cornell University found that help mentoring helps increase promotion and retention rates of minority men and women by 15%-38% compared to non-mentored minorities. In addition, the Association for Talent Development found that 44% of CEOs list mentorship programs as one of the three most valuable strategies to advance women into Senior Management.

Tips for Driving Diversity with Mentorship

It’s time to put some action behind the words. If you’re ready to put diversity in motion in your organization for real, follow these tips to implement a mentorship program that supports your diversity goals:

  1. Match mentors and mentees formally, instead of allowing them to self-match. This is especially important for implementing cross-group mentoring, because individuals are often inclined to seek out people that are similar to themselves. Diversity mentorship should be about pushing individuals to connect with those that are different from them.
  2. Offer guidance to mentors and mentees. It is not enough to simply throw two people together and assume they will know how to successfully engage in a mentoring relationship. Organizations should make it a point to offer training around mentorship, whether it is by offering some form of training session to launch the mentorship initiative, or even better, by having a platform that offers guidance and facilitates the mentorship process.
  3. Define program goals. A key component of continuing to move the needle on diversity and inclusion is defining goals and continuously pushing to meet and exceed them. Some goals to track when it comes to diversity mentoring include increased employee retention, and upward mobility within the organization.