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Why mentorship is critical in promoting better diversity & inclusion

22 Dec 8:00 by Tristan Bullworthy
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There is no doubt that I would not be where I am today without the help of the different mentors I have had throughout my career. The informal relationship between mentor and mentee focuses on professional development through advice-giving and sharing of experience. The objective is to develop future leaders and help succession plan; and it also provides a way to develop diverse staff to remove barriers that hold them back. Good mentors come from a position of greater experience in their mentee’s field. You don't necessarily need to be a subject matter expert or have done their job, but you should have experience having been a leader, running a P&L or dealing with complex teams. Even now, as a COO, I get a huge amount from my mentoring sessions that still benefit my career, but I also get just as much out of being a mentor to others.

As a leader, I am a strong advocate of everyone getting the chance to experience the benefits and transformational nature of mentoring, and I further believe that it is an excellent tool to help drive recruitment, retention, growth and company culture. At Hydrogen Group, we have seen that it improves staff wellbeing by decreasing employee stress and anxiety, which in turn increases job satisfaction for both mentors and mentees. It also plays a vital role in our learning culture as we focus on the growth mindset of all our staff. There are countless other benefits too:

For the mentee:

  • It helps address immediate concerns or dilemmas with impartial advice
  • It improves self confidence
  • It affords exposure to and builds relationships with senior people in the organisation
  • This in turn increases the employee’s visibility and profile with others
  • It is a chance to be inspired by those who have followed the same career path and overcome the same obstacles
  • It opens up new ways of thinking or looking at career development
  • It’s quick and efficient and can transform performance

For the mentor:

  • It develops their management, interpersonal and leadership skills
  • It cultivates their personal brand as an expert in the company, gaining peer recognition
  • Helping others improves job satisfaction and make a positive impact is rewarding
  • It encourages other leaders to participate, which leads to best practice in the organisation
  • It helps to refocus their own career and goals as they get insight from the mentee
  • It broadens company knowledge from a big picture perspective

In relation to D&I programmes, mentoring is today being used to great effect. Recent research has suggested that mentoring is valued higher by women than men and by minority groups than the average sample. Diverse mentors become role models, able to discuss the same barriers to inclusion that mentees might be experiencing. Female leaders and individuals from minority groups in senior positions are able to inspire mentees to achieve their goals. Structured mentoring programmes can therefore help minority groups accelerate their careers, which in turn helps to diversify the talent pipeline for an organisation. Everyone else benefits from a D&I perspective too because a mentoring programme is another forum for a business to promote diversity and inclusion as part of its learning culture.

We have been running our mentorship programme at Hydrogen Group for over two years now. Regardless of position and level, within six months of joining us, we offer all our people the opportunity to be part of the programme. We assign a mentor from outside of their team who is at least one level above them. Having someone who doesn’t work with the mentee and isn’t involved in their day-to-day work is preferable as it allows the mentor to be more objective. After the first session, where goals are outlined, they meet every few weeks over the course of 9 to 12 months, covering a range of coaching, training and work review modules. Then the mentee takes a break and puts any plans into action, before getting a new mentor who brings a fresh perspective and new ideas for the next stage of their journey. The feedback from the programme has been nothing but positive, with mentees reporting that they have been able to overcome varying personal and professional challenges to take their career to the next level.

Are you a mentor or have you benefitted from advice as part of a mentorship programme? Or perhaps your company is looking to start a programme and would like some advice? I’d love to hear from you.