Encouraging Workplace Diversity Through Mentoring Programs

December 03, 2015

Employers are routinely employing policies that foster diversity in the workplace. Diversity is often tied to the age, gender, and ethnicity of employees. These elements are part of workplace diversity, but organizations may also need to be concerned with professional diversity: creating a workforce of employees with different types of skills and experience. Organizations that implement a corporate mentoring program can use it to facilitate workplace diversity.

The importance of the authentic workplace

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones discuss the concept of an authentic workplace, where employees are allowed to be creative and express individual opinions. Team members are valued for their skills and differences, instead of their ability to conform to organizational standards. The creation of this type of culture within an organization leads to several benefits, including increased employee engagement, better customer service, and a more robust leadership pipeline.

Josh Bersin touched on a similar concept in a blog post on his website where he discussed the "simply irresistible" organization. Similar to Goffee and Jones' authentic organization, Bersin's theory of the irresistible organization posits that attracting top talent requires the creation of a workplace sensitive to individual needs and abilities. This type of organization views employees as consumers, who are free to move on to another employer with little notice.

Achieving an authentic workplace through Mentoring

Mentoring is a method by which organizations can establish a workplace that appreciates and embraces employee differences. The best corporate mentoring programs seek to diversify the workplace by:

  • Helping employees improve upon skills they have already shown an aptitude for
  • Matching employees with mentors who can help them learn in a style that is best suited for their needs
  • Spreading knowledge throughout the organization so that more employees learn a wider array of skills

The creation of this kind of organization through mentoring benefits both the company and the individual employees who participate in mentoring programs. The Miami Herald reports that mentorship programs are on the rise for this reason. The programs are being used to retain promising talent and to attract younger employees looking for ongoing development from their employers. Over 70% of Fortune 500 companies now have mentoring programs in place to help employees grow and increase the overall success of the organization.

It is important to note that there are some sacrifices required to create a culture where differences and unique skillsets are celebrated. As Goffee and Jones point out, companies often have to decide between creating an authentic workplace and establishing broad, organization-wide structures, processes and policies. The key is to strike a balance between nurturing individuality and establishing policies to help the organization run efficiently.

A mentoring program that embraces employees with different skills and methods of working will enable an employer to attract top talent in today's workforce, increase employee engagement, and provide better service to customers.

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