Why it’s time for mentorship to be considered a key retention policy

Mentorship is good for business and can increase motivation for minority groups

Diversity Q speaks with faculty member at New York’s Columbia and Queens College universities, Eli Joseph, on the business benefits of mentorship and its value as a retention strategy.

Mentorship as a key aspect of retention

How can we persuade leaders of the business benefits of mentorship?

We can allocate monetary and non-monetary incentives to persuade sceptics to allocate time to become a mentor. Managerial promotions should be tied to the employee’s professional influence and mentorship within the organisation. In addition, organisations should also provide bonus incentives to motivate managers to put in the effort to mentor at least three employees within the organisation.

How have mentorship schemes, especially for underrepresented groups, been impacted by COVID-19 and remote working?

In general, remote learning has disrupted the ordinary face-to-face mentorship practices within the workplace. This disruption has led to a negative impact for underrepresented groups, especially working mothers, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most mentors tend to focus on the professional functions of guidance. However, the pandemic exposed the importance of providing psychological balance that will benefit underrepresented groups in the workplace. In addition to the professional functions of mentorship, great mentors should also be able to provide psychological elements such as affirmation, empathy and emotional support through these uncertain times.

What are your predictions for the future of inclusion if firms move towards remote or hybrid working?

I’m very optimistic about the future of inclusion if firms move towards the balanced hybrid/ work from home model. Great organisations with great leadership will always empower underrepresented groups through varied engagements and address certain issues that may hurt their organisation. This pandemic has bought more attention to the importance of emotional intelligence and I feel good about the future of inclusion if organisations can provide that balance.

Aside from upskilling, what softer skills can leaders teach, or should be teaching their mentees in mentorship programmes?

Soft skills like empathy, authenticity, and vulnerability should be taught to mentees during these trying times. Leaders should be open to sharing their professional and personal struggles with their mentees while offering strategic advice on how they have or are trying to overcome these issues.

Is reverse mentorship the way to make leaders more diversity and inclusion minded?

Yes! Reverse mentorship enables leaders to put the “shoe on the other foot” and learn from the experiences of their more junior co-workers. Reverse mentorship can also enable leaders to gain a different perspective on themselves through the lens of other employees as well.

Have you seen reverse mentorship be successful? If so, can you give me some examples of why they were successful, including the positive outcomes?

Yes, reverse mentorship has been successful among great organisations across all industries! Reverse mentorship is successful because the breadth of knowledge, wisdom, and working capital from junior level employees will bridge the gap between today and tomorrow. When it comes to expanding their technological skills, we see more managers being mentored by junior-level employees to develop modern techniques that will be beneficial for their organisation.

In your experience, what are some of the big “don’ts” for leaders mentoring diverse employees?

Leaders should avoid making assumptions and jumping to conclusions about their mentees based on previous experience. Every individual has a story that is different from other individuals within the workplace. Leaders should avoid taking credit for their mentee’s work. Leaders should also avoid being too involved in their mentee’s personal life. Ultimately, leaders should not overact to their mentee’s mistakes in the workplace. In fact, leaders should inspire and encourage mentees to make mistakes so they can develop problem-solving skills as they progress in their careers.

How can minority employees gain the confidence, especially in larger hierarchical organisations to effectively and authentically reverse mentor their managers?

Minority employees gain confidence by being credited and recognised for their success in the workplace. When a high-ranking executive sends a corporate-wide note crediting the work of their employees by name for their contributions to an important project, these employees remain confident and motivated in working at the organisation.

Can mentorship, whether ‘traditional’ or reverse mentorship, remove feelings of isolation for minority groups in the workplace?

Although mentorship creates a friendly culture within different organisations, I don’t think traditional or reverse mentorship can single-handedly remove the feelings of isolation for minority groups in the workplace. However, mentorship can help foster better interprofessional relationships.

Why has mentorship failed (so far) to become an integral D&I policy in many big organisations? Is it a lack of belief in its value?

Mentorship has failed to become an integral D&I policy in many major organisations because most organisations put a ton of emphasis on diverse and inclusive hiring practices, not diverse and inclusive retention practices within the workplace. Mentorship requires a great deal of time and effort and the value of mentorship is predicated upon the long-term investment towards the professional growth of minority employees. We need to have a mindset change in order to improve the value of mentorship in the workplace.

If you could leave business leaders with three statements in favour of mentorship, what would they be?

Firstly, an investment in corporate mentorship can reduce the explicit and implicit cost of learning, secondly, mentorship is what we would give our younger self if we had the chance, and finally, leaders should advocate for reverse mentorship as it provides younger professionals an opportunity to share their wisdom.

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