How To Improve Diversity & Inclusion With Mentoring

December 12, 2019
Nicola Cronin

It’s natural that companies want their employees to feel nurtured, valued and supported.

But it’s only a successful effort if everybody is feeling that way.

A diverse and inclusive organisation is therefore one that employs and equally supports people of all genders, races, religions, sexual orientations, abilities, ages, backgrounds, appearances, and languages.

There are many ways companies can be actively improving their inclusivity in order to achieve a truly diverse workplace. One of those ways, is mentoring.

In general, the benefits of mentoring are extensive. But utilising mentoring for the purpose of improving diversity and inclusion can truly make an impact. In this guide, we’ll talk you through how mentoring can support D&I initiatives, and provide some tips from our learnings here at Guider.

But first...

Why is Diversity & Inclusion Important?

Everybody navigates the world differently.

Our characteristics – both physical and personal – affect the way we experience life, resulting in a vast range of perspectives.

In order to best understand anything (be it a problem, a method, an experience) we need to have as many of these perspectives involved as possible.

Seems intuitive doesn’t it?

Unfortunately not. When managers were asked for factors stopping them implementing diversity, many quoted the worry that too many differing opinions would hamper productivity. (Source)

When the reality is, diversity in organisations has been proven time and time again to have a positive impact on innovation and success. When it comes to decision making, diverse teams outperform both individual and non-diverse teams, making better business decisions every time. (Source)

Naturally, this positively affects the bottom line. A study by BCG found that companies with diverse management teams make 19% more revenue, showing how D&I is not limited to a HR goal, but is ultimately good for the economy.

💡 We've written a guide on Racial Diversity in the Workplace: Boosting Representation in Leadership with actionable tips for businesses to step up and tackle systemic racial inequality.

How To Use Mentoring For Diversity & Inclusion

Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge that diversity and inclusion are different things.

🌈️  Diversity is the goal for a workforce to be made up of a broad variety of people.

💛️  Inclusion is a method to ensure everybody is equally factored into that group.

So despite diversity and inclusion getting grouped together, the way to tackle these issues can actually be contradictory.

For example, if you’re looking to run a mentoring program to increase diversity, you may select a particular minority group and pair individuals in that group with mentors in order to achieve a goal.

However, this will not be inclusive if you only make the program available to that one group.

This is something to be aware of before you group them together and set up a 'D&I Mentoring Program'.

Mentoring Programs For Diversity

The aim of mentoring programs for diversity is to support and empower minority employees in their careers, developing their skills and network to increase leadership succession.

This typically involves pairing high potential employees from minority groups, with senior management level employees to diversify the talent pipeline within organisations.

As with starting any mentoring program, businesses looking to implement a diversity mentoring program must first outline the goals. Try and be more specific here than just 'fostering a culture of diversity' – perhaps you're looking to increase employee retention within a minority group, or encourage more black women into leadership roles. Whatever the goal is, define it before starting and understand how you will measure success.

Depending on the goal, size of organisation, and current diversity status, the way the program is set up will differ. In order to avoid the contradiction of a highly-exclusive diversity program, you can make it open but prioritise the under-represented groups that it is aimed to support.

For a full step by step guide to setting up a mentoring program, check out our full guide:

📖 How To Start A Mentoring Program 📖

Mentoring Programs For Inclusion

Alongside a tailored Diversity mentoring program, HR and L&D teams can also run mentoring programs supporting a culture of Inclusion.

A good example of where mentoring for Inclusion can have a real impact is age discrimination within the tech industry. 41% of IT and tech workers have witnessed age discrimination in the workplace, and 32% fear losing their roles due to ageism.

In this case, a number of companies have seen great success from reverse mentoring. Younger employees mentoring older employees and supporting them in their learning of digital skills can be hugely beneficial to everyone involved.

In this kind of mentoring relationship, the younger employee will naturally also learn a lot, creating an inclusive culture of learning and development.

By making mentoring an integral part of your company culture, you will naturally foster the sharing of knowledge, aspiration and development amongst all your employees, contributing to a diverse and thriving workplace.

Striving to create a diverse and inclusive workforce should be a number one priority for all businesses.

While external training and courses may have a positive impact, particularly with leadership teams, the best way to enact change is through the people already within the business.

Mentoring harnesses the people in an organisation to learn and grow together, to share experiences and knowledge, and level up across the board. That's why mentoring is such an effective method to support diversity and inclusion in your organisation.

Want to find out how Guider can help? Book a demo now to speak with our team.

Read more...

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