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How to Expand Your Diversity & Inclusion Mentoring Program

August 3, 2022
Frances Campbell

This July, we ran a special Guider People Network (GPN) session, with a group of our clients from Deloitte, Clyde & Co, and more. 

The session brought together program leads to discuss the successes and challenges of their programs, specifically in the area of diversity & inclusion. This was a chance for people to connect with each other, discuss how things are going, problem solve and share advice. 

If you missed our GPN session, or are interested in finding out more about how to expand your D&I mentoring program, we’ve put together the key learnings below. 

A big thank you to all who attended; Naomi Boachie-Ansah at Clyde & Co, Hannah Rubin and Marne Braddock at PVH, Helen Giblin at Deloitte, and Laura Kernaghan at The Talent Tap. As well as our Community Manager, Danika Patel for hosting another fantastic session and our Customer Success Manager, Holly Bradfield.

What is the GPN? 

The Guider People Network is a fast-growing community of engaged professionals working across Learning, HR, L&D, People and Talent. Led by its members, for its members, the GPN focuses on running sessions that build community and allow us to crowd-source learning together. 

💻 To find out more about the GPN and how to join head to our community page. 💻

How to expand your workplace diversity & inclusion mentoring programs 

To introduce the session, Danika talked about the key ways that mentoring programs can support both diversity and inclusion:

How mentoring supports workplace diversity 

  • Promotion & retention rates: Mentoring can make people feel valued, seen and that they belong at work, which leads to better retention rates as people want to stay and advance in companies where they thrive.

  • Advocates & sponsors: Mentoring is an excellent gateway to sponsorship and advocacy, where leaders use their influence to advocate for positions, responsibilities and networks.

  • Increasing visibility: A huge challenge for minority employees is that you don’t see people that look like you in roles you aspire to be in. So mentoring can help you to find those people, and guide you to reach those top positions.

  • Personal network: Similarly, mentoring can expand your network and connect you to people in your organisation or industry that you wouldn’t normally have the chance to speak to. 

How mentoring fosters inclusivity 

  • Broadening perspectives: Through connecting people that are different from you regularly, perspectives can be broadened leading to more inclusive mindsets.

  • Cultural competence: For cultural competence to improve in an organisation, people need to talk to one another and learn. Mentoring is a great way to do this.

  • Human-to-human connection: Change comes from human-to-human connection. This is what mentoring is all about and is an area that some inclusion programmes lack.

  • Creating safe spaces: Mentoring is a confidential, safe space for people to build trust and be honest. Safe spaces are important in inclusivity, as it means people can bring their whole selves to work and feel safe and supported doing that. 
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Key learnings on expanding your mentoring programs

To kick off the group discussion, Danika asked Naomi at Clyde & Co to discuss how they’re creating better D&I mentoring programs from the start. 

Naomi spoke about how they updated their list of skills and experience areas on the platform for users to enter. Previously, diversity and inclusion had been listed as an option that someone might want mentoring on. Now, Clyde & Co have gone deeper and provided more specific D&I topics such as neurodiversity, gender identity, and parental leave. After all, D&I encompasses a huge range of areas. This gives people more context so they can pick what they’re really looking for.

“For those people that have had harder barriers to overcome, it can be really good to have a mentor who's had a similar lived experience that can encourage and motivate them, and to see somebody that's like them in a context higher up.” Naomi Boachie-Anash, Clyde & Co

The Clyde & Co program, is giving people space to bring their whole selves to work so that as they go through the journey of mentorship or sponsorship, diversity and inclusion topics will stay part of the journey. If you only focus on reverse mentorship for diversity and inclusion, the onus is on the person in the underrepresented group to educate others, when actually, by matching with someone with a similar background they can find support themselves too. 

An interesting point she made is that in matching mentors and mentees, you can focus more on topics of discussion over skills. This helps pitch mentoring to people as a tool for diversity and inclusion.

Danika asked the group to share further advice on how to promote your D&I mentoring programmes within the company. 

Naomi talked about how they tie in their mentoring program with other D&I communications, to promote the program in different ways and contexts. So this means when there are events happening, such as webinars, they can tie messaging around mentoring and cross-promote. It’s important to ask the question across your groups “can mentoring help with that?” This way it’s not two separate initiatives but they are seen as one. 

Helen from Deloitte then spoke about her experience with sponsorship in particular. She said that D&I is interwoven into the fabric of the sponsorship programs they run, and that seems to be working well. Separate programs can really put people off. 

They've been using sponsorship to tackle racial and gender diversity in senior leadership in particular, with ambitious goals to promote females and ethnic minorities into leadership positions in a two-year period. The program has been successful so far, with 85% matching in just three months. 

“The absolute underpinning principle of sponsorship is having a senior advocate in your organisation. It will provide you with visibility, give you the right networking opportunities, and put you on the line to get you the right stretch assignments. We're investing a lot of focus to achieve something that has never been achieved." Helen Giblin, Deloitte  

In terms of promotion, they’ve been making sure to sell the benefits on both sides. Sponsorship and mentoring can benefit both sides of the relationship – this is important to ensure a good cohort of senior mentors or sponsors sign up. 

At PVH, Hannah told us that they had expected to struggle to get mentors signed up, but found that, because they had an engaged board, it was actually harder to get mentees on the program. While this is unusual, it’s an important point: senior-level buy-in for your programs can really make a difference. If you have key top-level staff on board, this can set a precedent and attract mentors to your program. 

The flip side of this is they then had to do more promotion to attract mentees. This was through employee resource group newsletters, events, and cross-company internal communications. 

At The Talent Tap, a social mobility charity for young people, Laura said that what they struggled with when launching a program was getting people to see the value of mentoring. They’d assumed it was obvious that it was beneficial. However, the students actually didn’t see the value in the program. Mentors too struggled to know how to support students that don’t know what they need yet. This is a big blocker in their program; helping students to understand mentoring and what they can gain from the experience.  

Hannah agreed that people often see mentoring as a good experience in general, but don’t necessarily know what they can get out of it. She advised that they sent triple the emails they had planned to get sign-ups and that pre-communication is incredibly important to build knowledge and awareness. Identify key mentoring champions in your business and ask them to share their personal experience over video or written interviews. People are more likely to resonate with human stories from colleagues than reminders from their HR team. 

At the end of the discussion, Hannah spoke about how, even if numbers in your programs are initially small, you’ve still positively impacted those people. Naomi further reassured us that building these programs takes patience and that with every iteration people will become advocates of what you’re doing and get the word out. 

While the initial launch can be difficult, it’s worth the effort to see the impact you can have on your diversity and inclusion programs with mentoring. 

Thank you everyone for sharing their thoughts, it was another incredibly interesting and thought-provoking session. To join the GPN head to our website or get in touch with Danika directly

We look forward to seeing you soon!

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