Diversity-Competent Mentoring

December 3, 2019

Making your mentoring initiative more inclusive has benefits for the whole team.

Based on studies of exit interviews, here are some of the most notable reasons employees from marginalized identity groups leave an organization, aside from bias and discrimination:

      •     They don’t feel supported and valued
      •     They don’t see diversity in the upper ranks
      •     They perceive a lack of growth and advancement opportunities

A key way to improve retention among employees of marginalized groups is to address these concerns with a robust and diversity-competent mentoring program. If your organization plans to increase diversity, think of mentoring as integral to that goal.

In our last blog post, you learned that sharing the unwritten rules of success is an important aspect of inclusive mentoring. What are some other things to keep in mind when working with employees of different backgrounds and experiences?

Thinking about the difference between traditional and relational mentoring is a good place to start.

Traditional mentoring involves a one-way process in which a mentor lends information and insight to a mentee. This type of relationship is mostly focused on professional advancement, and sometimes includes assimilating a mentee to the existing workplace structures.

Some employees may benefit from elements of a traditional mentoring relationship, while others may thrive with the relational model.

Relational mentoring involves a two-way exchange in which both the mentor and mentee contribute to the relationship, and both professional and personal growth are addressed. While the mentor still equips the mentee with professional direction, they also look at how the mentee’s unique perspective and contributions can help the company grow.

Some employees may benefit from elements of a traditional mentoring relationship, while others may thrive with the relational model.

For example, studies show that some Latinx professionals prefer a relational approach to mentoring because they identify with a culture that typically values collectivism over individualism.

In addition to the overall approach to mentoring, you might consider the structure of your mentoring program.

For instance, scholars suggest that marginalized employees may benefit from having networks of different kinds of mentors. This might look like a combination of one-on-one mentoring and group mentoring.

Or maybe it means establishing employee resource groups (ERGs) and developing a sponsor system, whereby an influential senior employee is charged with proactively advocating for their mentee and helping them make their unique needs, preferences, and career goals heard and fairly considered.

By keeping the traditional vs. relational mentoring frameworks in mind, as well as different structures, you can begin to meet the unique needs—and enjoy the best performance—of employees from different identity groups.

Scholars suggest that marginalized employees may benefit from having networks of different kinds of mentors.

Do you want a more inclusive workplace?
Check out our courses on inclusive hiring and organizational culture.

This post is part of a series addressed to HR and other hiring managers about integrating diversity competence into each step of the employment lifecycle, from recruitment and hiring, to creating an inclusive workplace, to evaluating and cultivating leaders who will take inclusive excellence at your enterprise to the next level.

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