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How Mentoring Can Increase Diversity in the Workplace

From increased social capital and network connections to higher pay raises and more promotions, mentorship can be a career supercharger. But ensuring that all employees have equal access to its benefit means moving beyond informal networking events or optional programs. Mentoring diversity in the workplace requires intention and strategy, and plays a key role in developing an effective diversity and inclusion strategy. 

The Benefits of Mentoring Diversity

Think of talent pipelines and mentorship programs as the peanut butter and jelly of a diversity and inclusion strategy. They just work better together. Hiring policies that reduce the impact of unconscious bias increase diversity on your teams. A structured mentoring program, on the other hand, provides the support and engagement needed for those teams to thrive. 

Mentoring diversity in the workplace also creates equity and plays a key role in career progression for minorities. One study of three large U.S. corporations found that Black and BIPOC professionals who advanced to the senior management level or higher shared a single characteristic: extensive networks of mentors and sponsors dedicated to their success. Other research has shown that women cite effective mentorship as ‘extremely important’ in their career advancement.  

For those already in leadership positions, mentoring diversity in the workplace strengthens the cultural competency skills needed to support an inclusive culture. Beyond valuing and appreciating differences in team members, culturally competent managers and supervisors are better equipped to identify and combat structural inequalities and create effective policies and procedures to correct them. 

4 Tips for Fostering Mentoring Diversity

  1. Keep your workplace culture in mind when crafting your mentoring program. Every organization is unique, and there’s no one-size-fits-all structure. You may need to create structured opportunities for connections if junior team members feel intimidated approaching prospective mentors or if your organization is hierarchical. Likewise, a distributed workforce may require more guidance to cultivate effective relationships. Stay alert for unconscious bias and consider implementing assigned mentor pairs if necessary.
  2. Establish clear objectives for your mentoring program and supply mentors with personalized training to help them reach those goals. Providing your leaders with opportunities to refine the necessary soft skills to create safe spaces increases their efficacy not only as mentors, but as managers and supervisors.   
  3. Provide institutional support. Leadership should communicate the importance of mentoring to your organization and protect time allocated for mentoring activities. Depending on your culture and workforce distribution, this may mean blocking specific times for mentoring meetings on a company-wide basis. Alternately, you might empower mentors and mentees to bow out of meetings or calls that conflict with previously-scheduled mentoring time. Budgeting for mentoring activities ensures that any interested employee has access to the program. All those cups of coffee and lunches can add up!
  4. Building an inclusive organizational culture means focusing on engagement and employee development for all team members. Mentoring diversity in the workplace not only increases overall equity in advancement, but increases retention by strengthening employee engagement.

From bias-free pre-hire assessments and structured interview guides to personalized employee development pathways, Cangrade is committed to supporting diverse and inclusive work cultures.