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Mentoring for Diversity and Inclusion

mentoring for diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) are hot topics right now, and for good reason. Inclusive teams are more engaged and productive; diverse teams have been proven to outperform non-diverse ones; and not many (if any) companies have been able to truly solve the diversity dilemma.

Mentoring is a go-to program for companies trying to move the diversity and inclusion needle. But, as we have found, a number of companies running D&I mentoring programs do not execute them in the right way or are misguided in their initial approach to building the program.

So here are some of the things that you need to be asking yourself when implementing a mentoring program for D&I purposes.


Diversity or inclusion?

Diversity and inclusion are different lenses with which to look at the same problem. As we like to say – diversity is the end-goal, and inclusion is the means by which we get there. So while not mutually exclusive, hopefully you will be able to see the marked differences between the paths of inclusion and diversity, and which one best aligns with your D&I goals.   


Inclusion: The company-wide approach
The inclusive approach to mentoring is a more company-wide and culturally integrated approach. It involves offering mentoring to all employees who are willing, able, and eager to participate. Approaching diversity in this way expands the scale, legacy, and institutionalisation of the program outcomes. If you can create a truly inclusive culture where all employees are encouraged to develop, interact, and voice their opinions – diversity is inevitable.  

Diversity: The individual approach
The individual approach on the other hand, is an approach by which a company selects minority groups or individuals to participate in the mentoring program. As a mentoring software provider, our clients often apply mentoring to very specific diversity initiatives. While this may seem intuitive and resourceful, it is often not the most effective way to foster diversity. But, it is purposeful and more easily measured. After all, it is far easier to track the outcomes of a small test group.

My recommendation:
Find a healthy middle-ground. It is unlikely that every individual within your organisation is going to want to participate in the mentoring program, so offer the program beyond a select group. This will open up the benefits of mentoring to more individuals, while creating a more diverse pool of mentors and mentees who will interact and converse with one another – breaking down the artificial barriers to diversity organically – and permanently.


Diversity: Top-down
One of the main measures of diversity, including amongst the tech giants like Google and Facebook, is diversity in the boardroom and C-suite; so mentoring for diversity up-the-hierarchy has become paramount. What does this look like? It involves connecting high potential minority employees with management level employees who can offer them advice, support, and a network with which to climb the ladder. Again, one of the bonuses of this measure is that it is easy to measure. It also comes with many trickle down effects which disseminate throughout an organisation.

Inclusion: Bottom-up
The inclusion approach includes worrying about diversity and inclusion across all departments, levels of authority, and experience levels. An inclusive approach involves plugging all of the leaks in a long talent funnel – from recruitment all the way to the C-suite. It involves offering mentoring as an onboarding tool to diverse hires who may need more time and care in being initiated; involves providing mentoring to junior and mid-level employees who need to continue to develop leadership and communication skills; and involves mentoring senior management and leaders.  

My recommendation:
Make mentoring an integral part of your culture. This way, you can stop trying to find temporary solutions to permanent problems. When people and culture programs are run in perpetuity and with commitment, they become embedded in the corporation. Then, you will find that the whole organisation becomes more diverse and inclusive. Upper management and senior leadership will be burgeoning with diversity, while the rest of the organisation normalises the process of internal progression based on merit – not appearance.  

While assessing and implementing these different ideas and strategies, we must not lose sight of the goal of diversity and inclusion. Which is not to just increase a KPI or vanity metric, but to provide a platform with equal opportunity for every person within an organisation.

And beyond that, the strength and benefits of diversity (which are significant), stem from the intermixing of diverse backgrounds, opinions and beliefs. Having a diverse group of people standing in a room doesn’t really make that group diverse; it makes the room diverse. As has been proven time and time again, the way to overcome shallow differences and plaguing issues is to find common pursuits. Creating programs where interaction is not just encouraged but becomes normal practice, creates a truly sustainable, beneficial, and diverse culture.

Most people do not want to see anyone sitting on the sidelines – minority or not. So we need to continue working on fostering work environments that ensure that no one who could or should be in the game – is left on the sidelines.

If you want to see how Mentorloop can help you address diversity and inclusion through mentoring, setup a 30-minute chat and demo with us here.

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