How a Mentorship Program Can Boost Internal DEI Initiatives

Zaib-DEI Mentoring November 3, 2021 By: Aneela Zaib

Diversity, equity, and inclusion can be challenging to implement in practice for both managers and employees. Making differences in background, culture, and gender opportunities—instead of barriers, with the help of mentoring—is key to the successful integration of DEI.

One of the more underacknowledged facets of diversity and inclusion is the need for mentorship and inclusion programs to actively support and cultivate a sense of belonging and potential within groups that may not traditionally interact with one another.

For example, how do you work with people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds? How do you support the needs of individuals who may not be well-versed in workplace etiquette? What steps can be taken to create an inclusive workplace culture?

What Are DEI Initiatives?

The main goal of DEI initiatives is to create a workplace that is inclusive of all kinds of people, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or any other attribute. Unfortunately, most companies and organizations fail to realize the importance of proactively fostering inclusion and diversity within their workplace.

In fact, many companies have a diversity problem. One of the best ways of meeting DEI goals is to be proactive about finding diverse candidates. Diversity is a crucial factor in the success of a company, according to research firm Gartner. When you hire from a diverse pool, you don't just get a diverse team; you also get a diverse set of experiences, perspectives, and ideas.

One of the more underacknowledged facets of diversity and inclusion is the need for mentorship and inclusion programs to actively support and cultivate a sense of belonging and potential.

What Is Mentorship?

Mentorship is a form of relationship-building typically between two parties. We often use the word mentor to describe someone who helps guide another person in a certain field, profession, or hobby. These mentors are usually older and more experienced than the person being mentored or the mentee. Throughout the process, the mentor provides feedback, support, and expertise. These relationships can be very rewarding for both parties because they provide support and guidance to individuals or groups to help them succeed in their professional development and personal life.

However, mentorship opportunities can look different. For instance, it may be a formal mentorship program facilitated by an agency, or it may be an informal mentorship experience in the workplace. Mentors may be your peers, a superior, or a peer-mentor. It is a leadership tool that allows individuals to help others grow.

For example, if you are a young professional who needs a sounding board and someone to help you navigate the waters of the association world, then your best bet is to be proactive and form a mentorship program with another up-and-coming new hire. This way, you can both learn from each other and help each other reach your highest potential.

From the management side, providing a support system to employees can empower and encourage them to do their best at work. This can lead to a more productive—and fun—workplace for everyone.

Benefits of Mentorship Programs

There’s a lot of talk about mentorship programs these days, which might make you think it’s as simple as hanging around a senior colleague for a few hours a week. But a genuinely effective mentorship program is more than that. Mentorship programs can:

  • Contribute to a number of business and personal factors, including productivity, ease of hiring, job satisfaction, and career advancement.
  • Help employees to develop their careers, increase their ability to manage themselves, and gain an understanding of their mentor’s work.
  • Engage and retain talented employees. A study found that companies with a mentorship program have an increased retention rate and turnover over those with no mentoring programs at all. That means mentoring can save employers and employees significant cost, time, and stress.
  • Improve inclusion initiatives, foster a work environment that is open and welcoming, and promote lifelong learning and career growth.

A Mentorship Program for DEI

The benefits of establishing an inclusive culture in the workplace are well-documented. But it can often take a long time to achieve. A mentor program is one way to instill that culture shift.  When it comes to diversity and inclusion, many companies don't know how to implement mentorship programs that will help them reach their goals.

Reverse mentoring (i.e., where a senior leader is mentored by a more junior employee), and career mentoring circles (i.e., matching employees with varied backgrounds) can help improve a company's inclusion initiative by helping employees to develop their skills and work attitude.

Mentorship programs of all kinds have become a common part of the onboarding process at many companies. These programs help people get to know their coworkers and build relationships to maximize the effectiveness of the organization.

Many groups within organizations are now working on diversity to help close the diversity gap. But sometimes not everyone within the organization knows that work on diversity is happening. To help close those kinds of gaps, it’s essential for all employees—including managers—to be engaged with diversity programs and initiatives that contribute to the diversity within the organization. The best way to get started on your diversity strategy is to engage your entire workforce to participate in mentoring programs.

Aneela Zaib

Aneela Zaib is CEO and founder of EmergiTEL, a recruitment agency in Ontario.