Dale Carnegie of Orange County | Improving Leadership Effectiveness

Building Organizational Diversity: Developing a Mentorship Initiative

Today, more than ever it is important to make sure you have a diverse team. Diversity offers growing organizations many advantages. A diversity of opinions and perspectives improves problem-solving. It provides a steady stream of new ideas, fresh perspectives, and contrary points of view that are the lifeblood of innovation. Diversity not only generates an atmosphere that encourages far-sighted, broadly-based, open-minded creativity and innovation, it also drives bottom-line results. Diversity means your organization is in sync with the market you serve.

In spite of these advantages, many organizations struggle with increasing diversity within their organizations. One way to do this is by developing a mentorship initiative. For thousands of years, mentoring has been used to pass down knowledge, skills, and experience. Traditionally this was set up as a relationship between an expert and a protégé. The expert would pass on knowledge and open doors to new opportunities for their protégé.

Here are five steps to help ensure your mentorship program is inclusive and drives diversity:

  1. Form requirements for participation in the mentorship program. To promote diversity, make sure that candidates are given equal access no matter their sex, race, age, religion, etc. Make requirements based on tangible criteria such as completion of baseline training requirements.
  2. Establish activities and guidelines for mentors and protégés to follow. These would include things like recommending meet intervals, mentoring meeting guidelines, reviewing the protégés goals and resume in order to make suggestions, shadowing the mentor for a day, attending internal meetings together, discussing how to handle internal conflict, etc. Having these written down will help ensure every protégé has the same opportunity for success.
  3. Select mentors and protégés for the mentorship initiative. Announce the mentoring initiative and the goals of the initiative so that it is seen as positive by the employees. When possible select mentors that have a track record of helping others succeed. Make sure that the first cohort of protégés selected is a cross-section or mix of as many groups as possible from within the organization so no one gender, race, generation, etc. feels left out.
  4. Pair mentors with protégés. This is an important step! Make sure there is mutual respect between the protégé and the mentor. If one does not respect the other, it can be counterproductive. Also, look at the goals of the protégé to see if they match up with the skillset of the mentor. This will help the protégé see the value of meeting with the mentor.
  5. Monitor and evaluate the mentoring initiative. Conduct regular check-in meetings with both mentors and protégés to ensure guidelines are being followed and progress is being made. Document and track success rates so you can see who the most effective mentors are in the organization or if a mentor should be removed from the program. This will allow the organization to pivot or intervene if it is necessary to keep protégés engaged and moving forward.

Implementing a mentoring initiative will help organizations build a culture of diversity and enjoy the ensuing benefits. As organizations implement mentoring initiatives, they will find a strong pool of diverse candidates to promote from within. This in turn will allow them to profit from the diverse viewpoints and experience already in their organization.

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