5 Tips for Planning a Mentoring Program for Diversity

February 03, 2016
In today’s organizations, managers must respond to the needs of increasingly diverse employees. Many organizations have instituted diversity training programs to help understand and utilize the unique contributions of all employees by creating an inclusive work environment. However, minority employees may need other tools, such as mentoring, with which to be empowered in their career. Mentoring has proven to be a highly effective technique to allow employees to grow their network and improve careers. Following are some considerations for planning a successful diversity-driven mentoring program:

1. Make the program inclusive:

The program should be a great way for all employees to network with others and learn from various cultures, working styles, and points of view. This should be not just for the mentee but also the mentor. Don’t leave any one out, regardless of age, gender, or ethnic background.

2. Understand differences:

Launching a mentoring program for mentees who are different from their experienced mentors can be challenging. Understanding cultural or gender-based assumptions will heighten the ability to develop the authenticity and trust essential for a successful mentoring partnership. To improve understanding, both mentoring partners need to be schooled in basic communication skills—those of listening, empathy, and appreciative inquiry—along with orientation into differing cultural, racial, and gender-based assumptions.

3. Involve top leadership:

Executive leadership plays a unique role in championing the success of a diversity-driven mentoring program. First, the program must be sanctioned by the top leadership to have credibility in the organization. Also, top leadership must put diversity-driven mentoring initiatives in the forefront of the organization and communicate its personal commitment regularly. Finally, senior executives should participate in mentoring, thereby setting the tone for employee development, inclusion, and empowerment in the organization.

4. Define program goals:

Of course, any mentoring program must have a clear strategic intent and specific goals up front. Both strategy and goals should be closely aligned and designed to support the business objectives of the organization. For example, a diversity-driven mentoring program may assist an organization in achieving its strategic goal of increasing the number of minorities in the managerial and leadership ranks by preparing them for upward mobility. Or the program may help to meet the goal of retaining minority employees if this has been identified as an issue through employee surveys.

5. Provide training for mentors and mentees:

Don’t assume everyone understands how to be a mentor or how to properly function as a mentee. As an example, a mentee should not go into the partnership with the assumption that he/she will get a promotion, or that the only mentor that is appropriate is someone at a senior leadership position within the organization. The focus of the program and the partnership should be to provide networking and developmental opportunities for the mentee and that may have nothing to do with job title. That networking and development may results in being recognized as being more skilled and eligible for more complex assignments – not just promotion.

If properly positioned and designed, a diversity-focused mentoring program can provide outstanding results for both an organization as well as the individual participants. Insala offers a unique program that helps companies establish mentoring in the context of their diversity initiatives.

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